30 games into the season, the St. Louis Blues are 21-6-3, a record that most fans would be proud of. However, the Blues have struggled recently, particularly against teams in the California district. The Blues are 0-4 against these teams, with 2 losses to the Sharks, and 1 each to the Kings and Ducks. If the Blues want to finally make some noise in the postseason, they're going to have to find a way to outplay these teams.
Regardless, I wanted to take this time to assess some key Blues players in their play so far in the season:
David Backes: It all starts with the captain himself, Inglorious Backe is his name, fighting Canadians is his game. Backes has been a notorious slow starter, but it seems these woes are beginning to come to an end. With 29 points in 30 games, and what seems like the chance to be the 1st line center for team USA in Sochi, I don't think there's much to complete about regarding our faithful Captain America. Backes has been a dominant force in both ends, and he should garner significant attention for the Selke.
Alexander Steen: Perhaps the biggest story so far in the NHL season, Steen lit the NHL on fire since the start of the season. He's cooled off a bit, but his statline is still tremendous with 22 goals and 13 assists in just 30 games. Some say this stellar play can all be attributed to the fact that he's in a contract year, which could be true, or maybe Steen is just a late bloomer. Either way, Armstrong has a no-brainer here as Steen is much to important to the team to just let him walk as a UFA.
TJ Oshie: Could we be seeing the emergence of a top line player in TJ Oshie? Throughout his career, Oshie has averaged around a 0.65 point-per-game pace, which isn't bad, but it's not jaw-dropping either. Oshie is the final piece of the dominant SOB line that the Blues deploy, and he's simply been a machine this year. Oshie is capable of creating plays seemingly out of nothing, and his ability to reverse check opposing players is still top-notch. One aspect where Oshie could improve though: staying on his skates as opposed to tripping over the red line.
Jaden Schwartz: The breakout player for the Blues, Schwartz is the engine that never dies. Schwartz has been simply marvelous, and Hitchcock has referred to him as the "next Zach Parise". A fitting comparison if I may say so myself, Schwartz is tenacious on the puck, and despite his lack in size he is never afraid to battle in the corners. Back in 2010, Schwartz was pegged as a late first rounder due to his small stature, but Jarmo elected to take him at 14. Many saw it as a reach, but we Blues fans are thanking Jarmo daily for this awesome pick.
Vladimir Tarasenko: The other famed pick from the 2010 first round which saw David Rundblad go to the Ottawa Senators. Tarasenko has shown flashes of brilliance in his time as a Blue, but the consistency isn't there yet. Tarasenko is blessed with great strength and skill, but he has shown a slight hesitancy when it comes to going into the corners. Although his stats may not be that impressive, Tarasenko constantly creates plays in the offensive zone, and he's hit 4-5 posts which is unfortunate for him.
Chris Stewart: Stewart is an enigma, plain and simple. There are games where he's a bulldozer on skates, and games where he looks like a ballerina. To keep it short, Stewart needs to find consistency in his game. Known as a streaky scorer, Stewart has the ability to pot goals in bunches, but he hasn't been able to find that hot streak this season, despite playing with UFA pickup Derek Roy. With Jaskin excelling in the AHL, and Rattie in the wings as well, you have to wonder if Stewart is in the Blues long term plans.
Derek Roy: Roy started off the season atrociously. He was a turnover machine and was constantly being knocked off the puck. Lately however, Roy has been a huge improvement. He's a powerplay machine, playing on the top unit, but he's also had times where he's been on the 4th line. Roy was brought in to be a center, but he's been finding himself on the wing more often, which brings up the question: why didn't we just keep Perron? They make similar amounts, and Perron is a better player without question. All eyes will be on Armstrong come July to see what he does to shore up our center deficiencies.
Vladimir Sobotka: I would call Sobotka the most improved player this season. Acquired from Boston in a trade that sent David Warsofsky the other way, Sobotka was seen as a utility player with feistiness. What he's shown though, is that he can be a serious offensive threat as well. Sobotka has great puck control, and his passing game is above average as evidenced by his numerous feeds to Jaden Schwartz. Sobotka is a player that the Blues simply must retain, as he is a UFA this summer. A 4 year deal at around 2.5-3 mil per would not be unrealistic by any means in my eyes. He certainly deserves an upgrade.
Patrik Berglund: Berglund needs to shoot more. That's it. Berglund has a heavy shot, but he simply lacks the motivation to shoot the puck at the net for some odd reason. Berglund is the most intriguing player to watch at times. Blessed with great size, but is muscled off the puck at times by defenders who are 6 inches shorter than him, and then all of a sudden drives the net with the force of a typhoon. Which Berglund is the real Berglund? I'm interested to see what Armstrong's opinions on Berglund are, as he keeps signing prove-it contracts, eventually the trend has to end, right?
The rest of the forwards haven't done enough to warrant an excerpt about them. I will be doing the defensemen and goalies in a couple days when I have the time.