There are so many players that you could call “unsung heroes” for this St. Louis Blues team, but I think there are three that are above it all when it comes to players who have been absolutely excellent for this team and aren’t talked about enough.
Early in the season, we saw Tyler Bozak struggling to score goals. That is no longer the case. We’ve overseen the chemistry of Bozak and Robert Thomas over the past couple of seasons, and how it has grown. This season has taken it to another level.
The Blues’ best line over the last month has been the Alexander Steen-Thomas-Bozak line. It has been excellent on both sides of the puck. You could make the argument for any of these three to be huge unsung heroes for this team, but I went with Bozak.
Bozak’s two-way game has been fantastic this season – as of late, he has been one of the team’s better goalscorers and defensive forwards. He has 11 goals on the season, to go along with 13 assists, which is good for 24 points in 46 games.
In 2018-19, Bozak’s first season in St. Louis, he managed to put up 13 goals and 25 assists for 38 points. He will match those totals very soon and is only looking more comfortable by the game with the Blues.
And for what it’s worth, Bozak is a plus-eight this season, and it helps that his line with Steen and Thomas has been producing goals. But Bozak’s two-way game has been very good this season, too. Another point that shows Bozak’s value is he’s been one of the Blues’ go-to forwards on faceoffs this season – he’s taken 439 draws and won 54.9 percent of them (241).
Finally, you can see why head coach Craig Berube likes to put Bozak with Thomas and Steen. You have the pure playmaking ability of Thomas and the veteran two-way toughness of Steen – Bozak fits perfectly with those two as he can score some, make smart passes, and play defense. It’s simply a perfect match.
I know that there are a lot of Blues fans who really like the play of Vince Dunn, and I would have to agree with them there. Dunn’s skill on offense has shown up a lot this year and the edge that he plays with fits right into what Berube wants.
Dunn was a pretty big piece in the run to the Stanley Cup last season, as, after he was hit in the jaw with a puck and missed a few games, it was very noticeable that St. Louis was missing something. Dunn brings a different element to the Blues’ offense with his ability to pass and skate with the puck.
Last season, Dunn put up 35 points in 78 games at age 22, and is only getting better in his age 23 season. It looks like as his game grows more, the more ice-time he will receive, which can only be a good thing.
The edge that Dunn plays with brings a special element to this team as well – he makes good, strong hits and sticks up for his teammates if needed.
Dunn is one of the smaller and more offensively sound Blues’ defensemen, but also plays pretty well defensively. He’s a little bit of an underappreciated player on this team – he is a bit overshadowed by Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko, but I think Dunn could be one of the most important players on this team. The offensive upside that he brings to the St. Louis defensive core is important.
Jake Allen has taken a lot of heat in the past from Blues fans, some of it righteous and some of it undeserved. This season has been different – Allen has been one of the best backups in the NHL.
It appears that Allen having less pressure on him with Jordan Binnington’s rise to the starter role has helped – Allen is absolutely excelling in this role in the 16 games he’s played this season.
The year started off pretty shaky for Allen, as his first few games were not very good. He started off the season with three games in a row with a save percentage (SV%) under .900. Since then, he’s been pretty good.
Allen’s been a road warrior this season – he’s posting a record of 6-2-3, with a .925 SV% and 2.40 goals-against average (GAA) on the road. He’s also been good at the Enterprise Center as well – in three home starts, he’s 2-1-0 with a .928 SV% and a 1.89 GAA.
The overall numbers for Allen are 8-3-3 with a .926 SV% and a 2.27 GAA. While his $4.35-million cap hit may be a bit high, he’s been well worth it for the Blues this season. The decision by general manager Doug Armstrong to keep Allen as the backup this season looks to be an excellent one. Binnington and Allen have been one of the best goalie tandems in the NHL, and are showing no signs of slowing down.
Who Else Deserves to Be Mentioned?
Oskar Sundqvist has turned into quite a player for the Blues given that he was somewhat of a “throw-in” on the Ryan Reaves trade to Pittsburgh. Sundqvist’s play with Brayden Schenn/Jaden Schwartz or with Ivan Barbashev and others on the fourth line has been key to the success of the team.
Jacob de la Rose, who came in from the Detroit Red Wings in the Robby Fabbri deal, seems to have found a role with the Blues. He hasn’t scored a ton for the Blues, but his two-way play and physicality have been much needed on the fourth line.
Jay Bouwmeester, who looked to be wearing down at the beginning of last season, has just been an absolute rock defensively. Bouwmeester’s consistent defensive play, especially with Parayko, has been excellent. Those two are one of the best shutdown pairs in the NHL.
Finally, I would say that while they may not be unsung heroes, you have to look at just how productive Schwartz and Schenn have been. Without their linemate, Vladimir Tarasenko, for most of this season, Schwartz and Schenn have taken their play to another level.
Schwartz is coming off of a down year with just 11 goals last season, but he’s already matched that total and more with 16 goals in 47 games this season. Schenn had 17 goals last year – he now has 17 this season in 47 games. Their production has helped make up for losing Tarasenko early in the year – it’s been excellent.
As long as these players keep playing and continue to buy into the system, there is no reason this team cannot continue to just win games. It’s hard to put into words how well this system has worked and just how good of a job the management and players have done to make it all work.