It wasn’t until pre-game warmups that St. Louis Blues’ forward Dmitrij Jaskin was given word that he would make his postseason debut against the Nashville Predators in Game 5.
Although head coach Mike Yeo and the Blues’ coaching staff had announced lineup changes were imminent when the Blues made their return home, inserting Jaskin was not in the plans. When it was decided that forward Alexander Steen would be unable to play, Jaskin got the call.
“I actually didn’t know until the warmups, but I was ready, since the day when playoffs started,” Jaskin said.
Alexander Steen had been nursing a lower body injury since Game 1 of the Blues’ 1st round series against the Minnesota Wild and had not practiced throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In Game 4, Steen took a shot off his left foot forcing him to leave the game midway through the 1st period. He returned but the ill effects were magnified when Steen’s skate was removed after the game. The Canadian forward was forced to walk with a boot and was seen on crutches Friday at Scottrade Center.
Steen scored 16 goals and had 35 assists for 51 points this season, while Jaskin scored 1 goal and had 10 assists for 11 points, a substantial difference in production between the two players.
Having only played in 4 of the last 23 games for the Blues it would be natural to think that Jaskin would not be much of a factor in Game 5, but Steen had confidence in him and told him he would score in Friday’s game. As it turned out, he did.
“He actually called that I’m gonna score,” Jaskin said. “Yeah, before game. We were kind of talking. Thanks to him.”
Oddly enough, not only did Jaskin’s fresh legs give a boost to St. Louis, but so did Steen sitting out Game 5. “When you see a guy like Steener out, you want to play for him. Hopefully you give him a shot to come back and play again,” forward Jaden Schwartz said.
Jaskin opened the scoring at 5:43 of the second period, putting home a rebound that bounced off Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne from an Alex Pietrangelo shot. Nashville would tie the game, but winger Jaden Schwartz scored the game-winning goal 25 seconds into the 3rd period to give the Blues a 2-1 victory.
Nobody could have predicted Jaskin’s impact, but without his energetic play in Game 5, the Blues may not have come away with the win. “I don’t know that we thought he would be as good as he was tonight because he was impressive,” Yeo said in his post-game press conference. Blues’ Captain Alex Pietrangelo echoed Yeo’s comments saying that Jaskin brought the energy that the Blues needed.
It was arguably the best game of his career, registering eight shots, four hits, and two blocked shots. Jaskin, along with fellow Czech Vladimir Sobotka and Patrik Berglund ended the game with the best possession numbers of any Blues line.
Game 6 Ramifications
The spark that Jaskin gave the Blues all but secures his place in the lineup for Game 6, that takes place back in Nashville, at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators have yet to lose at home this postseason and have won eight straight postseason games dating back to April 21, 2016.
Steen has traveled with the team to Nashville, and if the Blues can benefit from his grit and leadership on the ice, accompanied by Jaskin’s fresh legs, the Blues may be able to pull off the seemingly impossible feat of defeating the Predators at home.