FeaturedSt. Louis Blues

Blues, players poised for career years

Teams that have one or two players enjoy breakout seasons will no doubt be successful. But when a team has multiple players having not only great season, but careers seasons, well that’s just scary.

And that’s exactly what’s happened with the Blues this season. Their highest point total in the last decade was 109 in 2011-12, a number that nearly would have been matched in an 82-game season last year, if not for the lockout.

But this season they’re on pace for an astounding 119 points which still gives them a shot at chasing down the Anaheim Ducks – who have played two more games at this point – for the President’s Trophy. What’s most impressive, though, is how they’re doing it.

Thanks to some suffocating defensive play and a hard-nosed all-around style, the Blues have given up just 139 goals in 62 games. Only the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings have allowed fewer goals – 131 and 135 respectively – on the back of some stellar goaltending duos (L.A. technically had a trio going, given that Ben Scrivens, Martin Jones and Jonathan Quick have all suited up for, and had success during the year).

And while the team’s defensive play has helped prevent goals, the responsibility still ultimately lies on the goaltenders to actually stop the puck. But the surprising thing is St. Louis has been able to have so much success in the crease despite arguably not having a bona fide number one on the roster for much of the season.

With the acquisition of Ryan Miller, however, teams should be finding the back of the net on an even less consistent basis against the Blues. And as long as Brian Elliott is still able to steal games as he has done before, St. Louis should have no trouble continuing to get wins.

Moving out from the net, the defensive corps of the Blues has been unbelievably efficient, to say the least. Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester – all Olympians, no less – are each averaging more than 20 minutes per game in ice time and anchoring the back end.

Helping the case is the fact that Bouwmeester is having an unusually productive season – his first 30-point campaign since his Florida Panthers days – and that Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo are each on pace for career years in points (49 and 57 respectively). Throw in veteran Barret Jackman who has chipped in a modest 14 points (considering his role) and that’s a solid top four.

But up front is where the real power of the team has been. Alex Steen is enjoying a rejuvenated set of hands and would surely be among the leaders in goals had he not missed games due to a concussion. And T.J. Oshie is doing more offensively than in previous seasons, putting up 48 points in 62 games.

And that’s just the start.

Jaden Schwartz has been a pleasant surprise in his third season in the NHL, already surpassing his previous best of 13 points by a long shot. David Backes is doing double duty, putting up over 40 points while still being top five in the league in hits. And in Vladimir Tarasenko’s sophomore season he has already almost doubled his rookie point total.

So while no player has been overly successful – at least by league-wide standards – the parity within the team has been the driving factor behind its success. Nine players on the roster have at least 30 points – five have over 40 – which are not only personal bests for many, but have the Blues poised for one of their best seasons in recent memory.

Andrew DiRienzo
Andrew is a die hard sports fan who follows any and all sports. When he realized a career as an athlete wasn't in the cards he decided to venture into the world of sports writing. Born and raised in Canada's capital, Ottawa, Andrew has a journalism diploma from Algonquin College and an Honours Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Ottawa. In addition to covering college athletics while at Algonquin, he has also covered the Women's World Hockey Championships (2013) and junior hockey.
Andrew DiRienzo
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