Buffalo Sabres clean house against San Jose Sharks

Mar 4, 2014 3:07 AM

Hours following the big trade that sent All-Star goalie Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues, new Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth registered 36 saves to lead the lowly Sabres past Cup contender San Jose, 4-2.

Surprise.

But it wasn’t just Miller, an Olympic silver medalist, who left upstate New York. Sabres captain Steve Ott was also dealt in the first major deal of the season, with Buffalo general manager Tim Murray acquiring goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick and a conditional 2016 third-round pick.

With a dozen youngsters battling for future contracts, Buffalo is undefeated post-Sochi at 3-0-0. But the main focus of the trade is whether Miller can transform the Blues into true contenders in the playoffs or remain the team that twice lost four straight games to the Los Angeles Kings (one series sweep; the other after leading 2-0).

The improvement in the Blues is more psychological than physical.

Halak continues to rank among the NHL’s top goaltenders, listed among the leaders in every major category. His numbers will fall in Buffalo, but his value for a future trade will not diminish.

The Blues move to Miller may mean more important saves in clutch situations, stops needed to keep teams in games. It’s something current St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong learned during his days holding the same position with the Dallas Stars and molding the team that wound up winning the Stanley Cup.

Expectations now are higher with Armstrong in St. Louis, thus, so should be the work ethic from a defense corps that is still considered a notch below those in Chicago, Anaheim, San Jose and L.A.

In Dallas, Armstrong did the same thing in a major trade in acquiring Mike Ribeiro. Does he possess the Midas touch? Time will soon determine if he could do for St. Louis what he made happen in Dallas. 

My opinion shows St. Louis now overtaking Chicago for the division crown, but come playoffs, a few bone-jarring checks by the Blackhawks will revert the Blues to their old selves and an early ticket to the golf course.

Trade deadline: Did Vancouver center Ryan Kesler, a solid two-way performer, request a trade from the Pacific Northwest?

Following the injury to Daniel Sedin, the franchise’s third-leading scorer, Canucks management must quickly decide this week whether they are players to fight for a playoff berth or deal him to get ready for 2015. A difficult choice with less than 20 games to go.

Just like the Ryan Miller situation, bettors need to be aware of games coming off the board or getting betting lines readjusted because of potential or pending trades.

Speaking of betting lines, how did Vancouver go off at -140 in their home outdoor game against Ottawa? The Canucks had won just once in eight previous outings, while the Senators are always strong after getting thrashed (6-1 loss to Detroit).

And with road teams dominating in outdoor games, Ottawa was an easy winner.

Post-Sochi: Plenty of services note the array of games going OVER the total since the conclusion of the Winter Olympics.

Instead, I point out that a team’s first game goes OVER – yes, even the L.A. Kings – then they revert to their old ways. Don’t blindly bet the OVER.

More teeth: The San Jose Sharks look formidable to make a run at Anaheim in the Pacific Division with the return of injured standouts Raffi Torres and Logan Couture. Each scored twice while Joe Pavelski registered a hat trick in a 7-3 pasting of Philadelphia.

It was Torres’ first action since an ACL injury in the preseason. The surgery was the second of his career on the torn ligament. Couture, a center, missed 16 games with a hand injury.

The win was San Jose’s sixth straight in Philadelphia. The next night, they followed with a loss to Buffalo. Go figure.

White-out: For you Old School fans who thought the white skates of Charlie Finley’s California Golden Seals were outrageous, the crème-colored pants worn by the Vancouver Canucks for Sunday’s Stadium Series game against Ottawa were much worse.

Next time, please ask Monti Rock III to design tasteful uniforms for outdoor games.

Contact Nick at [email protected].

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