Steen-Backes-Oshie returning to form
At this point last season, the St. Louis Blues were garnering plenty of offense from one of the most prolific lines in the NHL. Alexander Steen, David Backes and T.J. Oshie were lighting the League on fire, accumulating 48 goals and 107 points between them through the Blues’ first 41 games played. The undisputed No. 1 line had accumulated 32.0 percent of the team’s 150 goals, pushing St. Louis to third place in the NHL’s overall standings.
However, another first-round playoff loss and a slew of changes to the team’s forward unit over the summer forced the three to split up to open the 2014-15 season. Backes and Oshie were joined by Patrik Berglund for much of the campaign’s early months and Steen found himself playing alongside newcomers Joakim Lindstrom and Paul Stastny in spurts.
The Blues’ new top line, consisting of Jaden Schwartz, Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko, pumped out goals at an alarming rate, scoring 22 goals in 17 games from Oct. 28 – Nov. 29 (contributing 46.8 percent of the team’s 47 total goals scored). It seemed that the power had shifted on offense as a new set of catalysts were taking over.
However, head coach Ken Hitchcock felt a need to alleviate some of the offensive pressure from the trio of forwards. As Blues beat writer Jeremy Rutherford wrote about on Sunday, Hitchcock reunited Steen, Backes and Oshie in mid-December and the results have been extraordinary. Since being placed on the same line to open the Blues’ 6-3 victory against the New York Islanders on Dec. 11, Backes has scored twice, Steen has tabbed five goals and Oshie has found the back of the net seven times, including a hat trick on Saturday against the San Jose Sharks.
Before that, the Steen-Backes-Oshie line scored a combined 15 times through the first 28 games of the season, which accounted for 18.8 percent of the team’s offense. In the past 11 games, the Blues veterans have scored 14 of the team’s 38 goals, or 36.8 percent of the total offense.
That number is much closer to what this lineup became accustomed to just a season ago.
Shattenkirk on Hart Trophy-caliber pace
Although Tarasenko’s breakout season has been the go-to story for NHL media in terms of the Blues, the NHL’s highest-scoring defenseman is wearing the same jersey.
Kevin Shattenkirk, now playing in his fifth NHL season, amassed a goal and three assists on Saturday in the Blues’ 7-2 rout of the Sharks. It was his 10th multi-point game of the 2014-15 season and the first four-point game of his career. His final point in the contest tied him for Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames for the NHL points lead by defensemen (35) and his two power-play assists in the third period added to his lead of power-play points by all NHL players (22).
The 25-year-old defenseman posted his career bests in goals (10), assists (35) and points (45) in 2013-14. Shattenkirk, who has appeared in every game so far this season, is on pace to shatter last season’s output; if the trend continues, he’ll reach 15 goals, 59 assists and 74 points by season’s end. The Blues have not seen a defenseman score more than 65 points since Al MacInnis did so in 2002-03 (68 points).
Ready to be astonished further? Currently, Shattenkirk’s 35 points is higher than the output of any Blues defenseman through an entire season from 2005-06 to 2008-09.
My early season projections had Shattenkirk reaching 60 points for the first time in his career. It seems that the offensive defenseman could have the chance to surpass that benchmark by March.