The St. Louis Blues proved Monday night against the Winnipeg Jets that scoring by committee is a philosophy that stays with the roster, no matter the injury or trade.
The Blues, playing without leading point scorer T.J. Oshie who became a father yesterday morning, found themselves deadlocked in a scoreless game after one period while being outshot 7-6. The second period proved to be a different story as Brenden Morrow buried his 11th of the season, just 1 minute, 44 seconds into the stanza. St. Louis went on to outshoot the Jets in dominating fashion, 12-5.
After the Jets punched in their first goal of the game early in the third period, captain David Backes notched a power-play goal at 13:09 and then was tripped on a breakaway on an empty net with just over a minute remaining, being awarded the goal in the process. The Blues went on to win the Central Division matchup, 3-1.
The win stretched the Blues’ point totals to 101 points, making them the first team to reach the 100-point plateau in the league. More importantly when considering that the league has shifted to divisional playoffs, the Blues improved to 20-0-2 against their division.
The victory came fresh off the heels of an announcement by the franchise that up-and-coming star Vladimir Tarasenko would be sidelined for at least six weeks with hand surgery. Although this may seem like a small divot in the Blues’ giant golf course to an outsider, any member of the Blues’ organization will tell you that Tarasenko was as much a part of the Blues’ success as Alexander Steen or Vladimir Sobotka. His work deep in the offensive zone kept the puck away from the opposing teams, contributing to less shots against and more scoring chances for his team. It also doesn’t hurt that he has tallied some of the most memorable goals of the so-far successful 2013-14 campaign.
The offensive surge that Tarasenko provides the Blues has allowed the team to move key cogs on the organization’s depth chart, including David Perron and Chris Stewart. He has proven to be effective on the first, second and third scoring lines.
Sunday’s news made many members of the Blues’ brass take a step back and reevaluate. Can this offense get it done when the tough get going?
The lineup did its best to provide critics with a resounding “yes” after the win against the Jets. Tarasenko’s spark will be a welcomed addition if he can journey back this season, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that his healthy teammates can continue on without his services.
Patrik Berglund picking up offensive slack
Excluding the roster-wide offensive power outage in the first two games, Berglund amassed six goals and one assist, including two game-winning tallies, in eight games before going scoreless on Monday. The six-year Swede has quickly gone from a depth center to a reliable threat on the wing. Although he has been known to be streaky in his career, his new-found confidence could have been the result of his Olympic silver medal success — something that is a new achievement for the 25-year old.
Jaden Schwartz enjoying career season
It may only be his third NHL season (first full 82-game schedule), but Schwartz has proven to be a top producer for his club. The left winger tabbed his 14th point on Nov. 25, breaking his career mark set just a season ago… and it only took 23 games.
The 21-year old ranks third on the team with 51 points and is tied for first with a plus-28. His season accolades include 11 multi-point games and his first Gordie Howe Hat Trick (Oct. 5).
Top line like no other
In past postseasons, the Blues have rolled out a scoring line of Perron, Backes and Oshie. After the Blues accumulated just six goals in 15 playoff games, management moved Perron to Edmonton and shifted Steen to the top line. Now, the Blues are seeing success coming from its top-three forward unit with a combined 70 goals.
With injuries working its way through the lineup, though, the line has seen some shuffling to add depth to the rest of the lineup. For spurts of the season, Schwartz has replaced Steen, contributing to the youngster’s success.
Oshie remains the team’s point leader while Steen paces the offense in goals (30). When the three forwards are placed on the ice together, they function as a dynamic scoring line that can also shut foes down in all facets of the game (a combined plus-47). The offense has taken a new look with some old faces.
If the Blues can travel deep into the 2014 NHL playoffs, Tarasenko could rejoin his teammates late-second round or, more likely, in the Western Conference final. The Blues are hoping at that point, though, his offense will not be a necessity. It will be a welcomed addition to an already well-oiled machine.