December 3, 2011 will be viewed on the Blues’ schedule as a 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks for the rest of time. What is lost in that date is the large gain that the team received that night.
David Perron, the Blues’ 1st round, 26th overall, draft pick in 2006, returned to the lineup that night after missing 97 games with a concussion. He last played on November 4, 2010 after receiving a crushing blow from Sharks center Joe Thornton early in the second period.
Perron came back with a bang, scoring his first goal of the season on his third shift at 6:51 of the first period. It came in classic Perron-style as well, holding patiently onto the puck in front of the net, then roofing it over Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery.
“It’s a good feeling to score a goal anytime in the NHL,” Perron said after the game. “And much more so when you miss that amount of time.”
After that thrilling moment, Perron hit a bit of a slump. He found the back of the net just one more time in 17 games played. That was followed by a four-game point streak, scoring two goals and two assists in that time.
The real story of Perron’s return has been his play as of late.
Currently, Perron has scored six goals in his last four games, two of them coming against the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night at Scottrade Center.
After being asked if the net is looking bigger to him right now, Perron made sure to show his sense of humor to the Blues media.
“It’s 4×6 just like any other games,” Perron said with a smile. “When you feel good you expect [the pucks] to go in and you want to keep the same routine. [You want to] keep working hard and some nights they won’t go in and if you work the same way [at least] you are still helping the team.”
Perron followed his impressive two-goal performance with a 5-on-3 power-play goal against the San Jose Sharks Sunday night en route to a 3-0 Blues victory.
“When you feel good you shoot it on net. [You] find the guys and the guys are finding you and the puck is going in sometimes even when you don’t expect it to go in.”
“He’s really getting in the dirty areas,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said of Perron. “I think he’s in the dirty areas five or six times a game and I think he’s being rewarded for going there. He’s crashing the net, he’s slicing into the net and he’s taking it off the goal line to the net. He’s got great hands. The biggest thing for me is that he’s going into the hard areas to score goals. That’s confidence [or] that’s competitiveness; whatever you want to call it.”
Questions arose during Perron’s long recovery back to the ice if he could ever return to the NHL and still be a top-six forward on a strong club. Perron is used to having to prove critics wrong.
Perron’s road to the NHL Entry Draft was not an easy one. The native of Sherbrooke, Quebec stands at 6’0” and weighs in at 180 lbs. This is not considered a large frame by today’s NHL standards. He has had to battle hard to get to where he is.
Perron’s rookie season in the QJAHL (Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League) ended with him being the Saint-Jerome Panthers’ 3rd-leading scorer (24-45—69), which helped him get the boost up to the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) the very next season. Perron thrived in the toughest junior league, amassing 39 goals, 44 assists and 83 points in 2006-07.
Despite his breakout season, most NHL draft experts had Perron going late in the 2nd round or early in the 3rd round. The Blues surprised everyone taking him with their last pick in the 1st round. Someone in the Blues’ scouting department noticed him and felt that he had a future.
“David is a highly skilled forward with excellent hands and offensive instincts,” former Director of Amateur Scouting Jarmo Kekalainen said after he made his selection.
Perron continued to impress the Blues in their September training camp, as the club decided to keep the 19-year old with the NHL club. Perron went on to score 13 goals and 14 assists in his rookie season.
Behind all the injuries and all of the hype rests a man determined to lead a club to the ultimate goal. He may be the one putting up the goals and getting the credit for the rejuvenation of this team (the Blues are 6-1-0 when Perron scores a goal), but Perron remains humble.
“I’ll certainly take the goals that are coming my way right now but mostly the wins for our team for sure.”