Blues Veterans Sparking Playoff Push

The St. Louis Blues playoff hopes are still alive. With their victory against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday the Blues moved to within one point of the Colorado Avalanche for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. Since the departure of Paul Stastny at the trade deadline, the veterans have stepped up and led a final push for a postseason berth.

The New Captain Clutch

Alex Pietrangelo has been hot, and I mean red-hot. In the month of March he has 12 points — four goals and eight assists. Last weekend against the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks, Pietrangelo combined for seven points which included a late game tying goal against the Blackhawks that sparked a third consecutive come from behind victory. This season has been a career year for the second year captain. In Friday’s win against Vancouver he recorded his 51st point, tying his career best set back in 2011-12 and 2013-14.

Alex Pietrangelo
Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues, January 6, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In January he was one of two Blues players who represented the Note at the All Star Game, winning the passing challenge over teammate Brayden Schenn (who finished fifth) and division rival Eric Staal (who finished second). It was Pietrangelo’s first All Star Game and it was a deserving symbol of the season he has had. With eight games left in the 2017-18 campaign, Pietrangelo can set career highs in assists, points, and can help lead his team to the postseason in a year where fans have oft questioned his ability as the captain.

Berglund’s Offensive Resurgence

Patrik Berglund was drafted by the Blues in 2006, 25th overall after playing three seasons in HockeyAllsvenskan in Sweden. His tenure in St. Louis has been rocky, to say the least, as he’s been at the center of Blues fans’ anger due to his inconsistent play at times. Since he joined the team in 2008-09, Berglund has only played 80+ games three times and played in fewer than 50 games twice. His numbers have been up and down as well, posting one 50+ point season and five seasons with fewer than 30 points, including a 15 point season in 2015-16.

Patrik Berglund
Patrik Berglund, St. Louis Blues, January 6, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This season has been no different. Between Feb. 13 and Mar. 10 Berglund didn’t record a single point. Combine that with five different stretches of three games where he failed to show up on the score sheet, and his contributions have been severely limited. But, he’s come around as of late.

His two goals against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday really propelled the Blues as his first goal came :40 into the game, and his second goal was a big shorthanded tally early in the second. Berglund’s five points this month aren’t going to blow anyone away, but they’ve come at big moments for the team and he has shown he can help the team when they need it most.

Blues Addition by Subtraction

The Blues traded Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets at the deadline, and have lost multiple players to injury after his departure. Jay Bouwmeester injured his hip and is out for the rest of the season. Scottie Upshall sprained his MCL and has been day-to-day for the last several games. Nikita Soshnikov was ruled out of Friday’s game with an upper body injury, Carter Hutton has been dealing with neck issues and Carl Gunnarsson exited Friday’s game with an apparent knee injury. But, to many people’s surprise, they are 7-3-1 in their last ten games and are currently on a four game winning streak.

Jake Allen has been playing much better as of late, allowing two or fewer goals in five of his last eight games and two back to back games allowing only one goal. Although Brayden Schenn has only one goal this month, he has four assists and has a positive plus/minus rating. Jaden Schwartz has four goals and five assists this month and Alex Steen has five points on the month.

The young guys aren’t doing too shabby, either. Ivan Barbashev has three goals this month, Vince Dunn has seven points this month, including a four point performance against the Blackhawks, and Soshnikov has played remarkably well since his acquisition.

Ivan Barbashev
Ivan Barbashev, St. Louis Blues, January 6, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Blues have played better in the last ten games than they have since November. And, with less than ten games left in the season, it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Blues are one point behind the Avalanche for the last wild card position, two points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the first wild card spot and, crazily enough, they are only three points behind the Minnesota Wild for the third spot in the division. Their playoff push still has some spark.