(HockeyStL) -- With the City of St. Louis focused on the Blues’ upcoming playoff series against the San Jose Sharks, now is the appropriate time to weigh the factors that will have an impact on the outcome of Round One. While different people have developed different opinions on who should be considered “the x-factor”, or the player that can single-handedly turn the series in favor of either club, it is my belief that Chris Stewart deserves such a title.
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Chris Stewart has struggled all season to find his rhythm after having a spectacular debut half-season with the Blues. Stewart came into training camp this year looking to pick up where he left off, but failed to do so, much to the criticism of fans. Now is the time for Stewart to shine.
The 6’2”, 232 pound forward is capable of being the Blues’ most dynamic offensive producer, when he is on his game. Stewart’s statistics from last year are evidence to the type of player he can be. In 26 games last season, Stewart was able to register 15 goals and 8 assists, much to the delight of the Blues’ organization who believed that he would play a major role in the upcoming season. Stewart, however, has not lived up to the hype yet this season, scoring only 15 goals and registering a miniscule 15 assists in 79 games. Yet Stewart will be given a glorious opportunity to redeem himself starting Thursday.
The playoffs have arrived in St. Louis, and have brought along the chance to hit the reset button. No player’s stats will carry over into the postseason, or as many call “the new season”, and this fresh start could do wonders for the man they call “Stewie”. Stewart is a player that can turn the Blues into legitimate Cup contenders as soon as he gains confidence. Making his presence felt in front of the net, or delivering a bone-crunching hit, may be just what the Blues need to bring them to a new level. Not to mention Stewart’s scoring touch that led to the Blues’ offensive spark to end last season. Simply put, Stewart is the “x-factor” in this series.
Should Stewart be able to find his game, which he will be expected to do quickly, the Sharks will have a big problem on their hands; the same will be said about every NHL playoff team that has to face the Note. Hitting the reset button may be the first step for Stewart in regaining his confidence and composure, but the question remains --- what kind of impact will Stewart have on this series?
Stewart, when at his best, has the ability to put the St. Louis Blues team on his back, and carry them a long way. The Blues could use the extra offense, but will be looking for much more than a few goals from Stewart. The competiveness, and tenacity that allowed Stewart to win over the hearts of fans, and the Blues organization has not been present this season. Now is the time for Stewart to help them forget the past and move forward towards the Stanley Cup. Stewart is set to become a free agent next season, and it is fair to assume that how he plays in the playoffs could make or break his career with the Blues. Stewart earns the title of “x-factor” simply because his skill and compassion for the game could be the deciding factor in how far the Blues’ playoff run extends. Yet, Stewart’s inconsistent play during the regular season has Ken Hitchcock relying on other players to step up, and looking at Stewart as possibly being a bonus. This outlook must change in the playoffs, and Stewart must become a go-to guy, a player that the team can consistently rely on every game. If Stewart assumes this role, there is no limit to the damage the Blues can cause moving forward.