The word dynamic can be overused, misused and misinterpreted in sports speak. It has been adopted to describe a player with a pocket full of tricks or a star-studded goaltender who makes miraculous saves at the flip of a cap.
However, if you were to look up the word in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you would see the following:
DEFINITION: 1) always active or changing. 2) having or showing a lot of energy. 3) of or relating to energy, motion, or physical force.
If you were to use this word to illustrate St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock’s latest line combination of Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny and Ryan Reaves, which definition would you choose to properly fit the description?
If you chose all of the above, you answered correctly.
Whether seeing this line in the morning skate on Monday made you want to leap for joy or tear your hair out, it was an intriguing coaching decision about which every Blues fan was fired up, one way or another.
The change was sparked by a streak that saw the Blues post a record of 0-3-1 in the past four games. It was also a stretch that included three blown leads by the St. Louis team, including a 3-0 open against the Los Angeles Kings only to end in a 6-4 defeat on Dec. 18.
This led to a mix of line changes, including Reaves and grinding forward Chris Porter being thrust onto lines with some of the franchise’s top-six forwards.
“I don’t like losing,” said Hitchcock after Monday’s game. “I’m going to change things. When we don’t have a bite in the game, I don’t like it. Our game is based on north physicality. We need more players involved like that. Jaskin is willing to play that way, (Reaves) plays that way. We need some of that element back in our group. That’s the way we’re built.
“We defend by playing in the offensive zone.”
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The changes went in the coach’s favor on Monday night against the Colorado Avalanche.
Starting the game with the Jaskin-Stastny-Reaves line, the Blues controlled play early in the game. Although the Avalanche held an 8-5 lead in shots in the opening stanza, the Blues offense seemed to play with more fire than in the previous four games.
The offensive surge hit a high point just 28 seconds into the second period, as Stastny knocked down a pass along the glass by Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov and sent it in front. Jaskin, a veteran of just 30 NHL games before Monday, buried the shot to give his team the 1-0 lead.
Jaskin was quick to credit Stastny’s vision on the goal that broke the goal-less deadlock.
“(Stastny) always sees me,” he said. “He’s a great player so he always looks for guys like me or (Reaves). He just put it through and I shot it through traffic and it went in the net.”
Stastny was involved in the next goal of the game, as well. He fed winger T.J. Oshie with a pass behind the Avalanche’s goal that eventually led to defenseman Chris Butler’s first goal as a member of the Blues.
— Blues Hockey Podcast (@BluesHockeyNHL) December 30, 2014
Sniper Vladimir Tarasenko tallied his team-leading 22nd goal in the third period and the Blues skated away with a 3-0 victory. Goaltender Martin Brodeur recorded his 125th career NHL shutout with a 16-save performance.
“We found some some chemistry,” Jaskin said about playing with Stastny. “We (are trying to) prove it everyday and it (keeps) getting better. It’s really nice and easy to play with him. He’s a great player.”
Although Reaves was held without a point, he registered a shot on goal and was a plus-1 on the evening.
“He’s a heavy guy so it’s always good to have someone like him on your line,” added Jaskin.
Jaskin on the rise
Jaskin played in a career-high 18 games last season. Already appearing in 11 games before Jan. 1 of this season, he is primed to shatter that mark this season.
“I think what you’re seeing now is a player who is starting to emerge as an offensive threat with real weight and size,” Hitchcock said. “All of a sudden, I don’t think the game is near as fast as when he first came up (to the NHL). Now he’s starting to look like a really good offensive player.”
Although Reaves is known as the bruiser of the newly formed line, Jaskin matched him with four hits in Monday’s contest. He appeared in 15:27 of ice time, which is a new career high for the 21-year-old right winger. This is also the first time in his young career that his NHL head coach has trusted him consistently in a scoring role.
Selected in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Jaskin has proven to be a scorer at every level. He scored 99 points in 51 games for Moncton of the QMJHL in 2012-13 and posted 29 points in his first 42 games with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL last season.
Even though he’s young, he’s already discovered what will make him successful in the world’s best hockey league.
“That’s exactly the game I have to play,” he said, “hard, physical (and) go to the right places.
“I feel very comfortable.”
Dynamic may just be scratching the surface of the Blues’ rookie and his linemates. Other words that could describe this group of forwards could be menacing, controlling and domineering.
For Jaskin, the Blues coaching staff feels that prolific is an adjective that could be used in the near future.