3 Takeaways From Blues’ 5-2 Win Against the Blue Jackets

Ahead of the night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the St. Louis Blues were the last team in the NHL to play their first game of the 2022-23 regular season. The Funky Butt Brass Band stayed funky and lively as fans filed into the Enterprise Center with high anticipation of the night’s game. 

Toropchenko Strong in Return to Lineup

In what can only be considered a surprising addition to the lineup, Blues forward Alexey Toropchenko made his way two months ahead of schedule. After undergoing shoulder surgery in July, he was a player targeting a mid-December return to play. 

Alexei Toropchenko St. Louis Blues
Alexei Toropchenko, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

Regarding his return to the lineup, Blues head coach Craig Berube said:

“He’s good to go,” Berube said. “We’re excited, he’s excited. He’s a good player for us. I thought he brought a lot last year to our team and in the playoffs. We’re really excited that he’s early, going to play. I think he’s a smart player, which he’s got really good hockey sense, which goes a long way. We all know his skating ability and his size, and when you put the hockey sense in there, he’s a good player.” (from ‘(10-15-22) Blue Jackets-Blues Gameday Lineup’ In the Slot, Oct. 10, 2022)

Toropchenko played on the team’s fourth line alongside Noel Accari and Nathan Walker. Though the forward did not manage to get on the scoresheet, he did test his shoulder early and often by registering five hits over 11:31 of time on ice.

Russian Trio Sparks Offense in St. Louis

Blues forward Pavel Buchnevich continued his scoring ways picking up right where he left off last season by putting the Blues up early 1-0 on a power play goal. The goal came 5:05 into the game on a pass across the ice from defenseman Torey Krug. After scoring a career-high 30 goals and 76 points breakout season last year with the Blues, all eyes will be on an anticipated repeat performance. 

As the game progressed into the second period, Vladimir Tarasenko and the team came out strong by taking a 2-0 lead and needing only 1:04 to extend their 2-0 lead. He continued his strong play scoring his second goal of the game with under two minutes to play in the game on a heads-up play in the offensive zone and firing a quick shot to beat Elvis Merzlikins. Tarasenko finished the game leading the team with two goals and tied Buchnevich for a team-leading four shots on goal.

Rounding out the trio, Ivan Barbashev scored the all-important game-winning goal breaking the 2-2 tie halfway through the third period. After scoring a career-high 26 goals last season, many have become skeptical believing that it was a one-time fluke performance. After the game, Berube provided confidence in Barbashev and that his role has changed during his time in the NHL and he can see him hitting 20 goals again this season. Starting as a bottom-six forward primarily in a checking, defensive style position, he has evolved into a player who can play on any line asked of him and play any role the team needs him to play on a given night. This season begins the second of his two-year, $4,500,000 contract extension signed on July 30, 2021. 

Blues Third Line Providing Invaluable Depth

The team’s third line featured a familiar combination of Brayden Schenn and Barbashev and welcomed rookie Jake Neighbours on the left wing. While the trio did not see any offensive production until the third period, they proved how valuable and versatile they can be through the course of a game. Both Barbashev and Neighbours contributed late goals and scored only 20 seconds apart in the third period.

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Heading into the season, it seems the Blues’ offensive production may come from the team’s top six. However, the squad’s third line can alter a game in many ways than one as the season progresses. This will be a combination to keep an eye on should they stay together throughout the season. In his postgame press conference, Berube stated the line can score, but they’re a good identity line for the team with providing work and physicality. 

The Blues will head out on a three-game road trip with their first stop in Seattle to take on the Kraken, Wednesday Oct. 19. The game will feature former Blues players Jaden Schwartz and Vince Dunn suiting up for the Kraken.

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