St. Louis will take on the Dallas Stars tonight before finishing their preseason campaign Thursday at home against the Chicago Blackhawks. Thus far the Blues are 2-2-0 in the preseason with wins coming against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars.
Although the line deemed the 20-26-91 line hasn’t played in all the games, they’ve shown just what they’re capable of and why they’ll make the Blues that much better this season than last. What gives them that advantage is not only their talent as individual players, but their chemistry and awareness on a line together.
20 – Alexander Steen
Steen was acquired along with Carlo Colaiacovo back in 2009 from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Lee Stempniak. While neither Colaiacovo nor Stempniak have remained members of the Blues and the Leafs respectively, Steen has found a home with the Blues. He’s played 426 games with the organization and produced 303 points (130G, 173A) during that time.
In his years in the Gateway City, Steen has played in a variety of situations, often frequenting the power play as well as spending minutes killing penalties. His versatility is a useful attribute, but it’s also expected when playing in the company of such highly esteemed players.
No. 20 has shown he is more than up for the task while with the Blues, because he’s a player that makes those around him better, a quality that not every athlete has. His leadership and offensive contributions have made him a great acquisition for the Blues and will continue to make him a positive part of the team for years to come.
26 – Paul Stastny
As the blockbuster signing of the 2014 offseason, Stastny has not yet reached the level the Blues would like; however, that doesn’t mean he won’t. He has 504 points (176G, 328A) in 612 regular season games during his career, including four 50-plus point seasons.
Although his play wasn’t awful last season, the Blues would’ve preferred a larger contribution from the nine-year NHL veteran, especially considering how great of a wrist shot he displayed against Devan Dubnyk in last year’s playoffs.
Stastny will surely benefit from Tarasenko’s youth and Steen’s skill as they makeup the first line for the Blues. Not to mention that his contributions to special teams will almost definitely make for improved offensive production.
He’s proven his worth throughout his career and he’ll be better suited on the first line with players to the likes of Steen and Tarasenko because they better match his style of play.
91 – Vladimir Tarasenko
To finish off the line is the Blues’ best forward, and arguably their best player, Vladimir Tarasenko. He too makes players around him better, but also challenges himself to improve season after season.
At only 23-years old, Tarasenko still has a few years before reaching his prime, but he’s already amassed 135 points (66G, 69A) in 179 NHL games. This season, he’ll look to make strides toward either the Art Ross or the Rocket Richard.
With his shot, speed, and youth, No. 91 is tough to beat. He’s a player that can take games into his own hands and entirely change their direction. Expect only for Tarasenko’s abilities to improve as the ceiling on his talent continues to rise.
Together they form a rather perfectly balanced line. They’ve got the juxtaposition of Tarasenko’s youth with Steen’s experience, while Stastny falls somewhere in between. They’ve all got shots that opposing goaltenders fear and they all have hockey intelligence that just can’t be taught.
Steen and Tarasenko were already combining for rather large goals last season and will look to continue that trend, with the addition of Stastny, heading into the 2015-2016 campaign.
The only obvious downside to this trio? They’re all left shots. While by no means a deal breaker, the lack of a right shot makes things a little bit more difficult when coupled with the quick pace of the NHL. However, all three players are highly talented and if Thursday’s game was any indication of what’s to come, the fact that they shoot the puck with the same hand won’t be too much of a hindrance on their productivity.
Expectations are high for this trio, but there’s little reason as to why they wouldn’t reach or exceed those because of their abilities on the ice. The preseason is just the beginning. If they’re already combining for seven points in their first full game together, imagine what they’ll be achieving come March, April and May of next year. If you ask me, there’s no limit to how great they could become.
What do you think of the 20-26-91 line? Leave your thoughts in the comments.