(HockeySTL)-- The Blues were without one of their roster fixtures Tuesday against Los Angeles and though it didn’t stop them from handling the Kings 5-2, that doesn’t mean they didn’t miss T.J. Oshie.
Oshie, who missed the game due to a family issue, has been rounding into form of late after a bumpy start. His absence was noticeable.
“When you take out a guy like him, it affects every aspect of your game,” head coach Ken Hitchcock said. “You are taking out a player that plays in all situations.”
The Blues have been without Oshie enough this season to realize the difference between games where he is an active participant and ones where the opposite is the case.
Earlier this season, the forward missed seven games with a concussion. In all, he has missed eight games, each one being as hard for him to sit out as the last. But after a rough and inconsistent start to the year, Oshie is beginning to find a level of consistency.
“Probably the last week I have felt like it has been the best hockey of the season for me and like I’m getting back to that good hockey I was playing last year,” Oshie said. “It feels good.”
In his last five games, the forward has three goals, six points, including an overtime winner in Colorado this past weekend. After his earlier seven-game absence due to a head injury, Oshie’s production really took off. And after an eight-game goalless streak to start the season, it was exactly what the doctor ordered.
“It’s actually things away from the puck,” Oshie said. “It’s stopping in good areas; it’s not turning away from the puck, not guessing, not cheating. My line is playing really honest right now and that’s why I’m getting chances right now.”
As lines go, the one Oshie is finding comfort on is a dandy. Being slotted with Alexander Steen and David Backes would do wonders for most National Hockey League players. For Oshie, who spent a large chunk of last season as a part of the trio, it is the perfect time for familiarity.
“You build chemistry,” Oshie said. “When you are inconsistent, like I was, it compounds the problem. We’ve been pretty consistent lately and it’s really great to have chemistry with Backes and Steen.”
The Steen-Backes-Oshie line has kick-started the Blues, propelling them to a five-game winning streak. During the streak, the trio has combined for 13 points, which comes as a relief following the outcry over the team’s lack of offensive contributors earlier in the season.
“I think there is some real predictability with all three,” Hitchcock said. “They are all playing predictable right now. There is no hesitation in puck placement, the cycle game. That’s why they look so much faster. When you are predictable to one another, you have real success.
“The best way I can sum it up is now you see what happens when you have three guys who play with a sum of parts. They look real good together and real good individually, too.”
Everyone expected Backes and Steen to begin producing. But with Oshie’s second bout with concussion symptoms in as many seasons, there were questions about how effective he would be following his return a month ago.
Since then, Oshie has added five goals, 11 points to his 2014-15 resume.
“The break was terrible for me,” Oshie admitted. “It was awful. The first week back from that things weren’t going well, at all. But I think there was a game I played with Backes and (Patrik) Berglund where all three of us just kind of settled down and played within ourselves. Ever since then, it’s been different. The puck is just bouncing the right way now.”
Despite his early-season struggles, which led to some noticeable frustration for the forward, Oshie hasn’t made drastic changes. To him, normalcy is good, but he's discovering that patience and a solid defensive game are equally rewarding. Both are things Hitchcock often preaches.
“I think it’s maybe a little more patience,” Oshie said. “I’m waiting for the opportunities to come to me rather than forcing offense. At the beginning of the season, I almost wanted it too much. Now I’m just sitting back focusing on my defensive side of the game and it’s leading to a lot of offense.”
One alteration Oshie has made is in a certain off-ice routine. Not too long, the forward was introduced to a system called the Arp Wave, which essentially improves muscle performance and strength while helping to prevent injuries to muscles, tendons and ligaments. He likes the results he is getting from the system.
“I was introduced to a new system,” Oshie said. “It’s a different thing than I’ve ever done and my body is feeling good right now.”
A Minnesota native, Oshie said the Arp Wave is a popular system amongst athletes in his home state.
“A lot of Minnesota guys do it,” said the forward. “It’s for recovery and warm-up and things like that. Hook up to wires and do some movements.”
With the new system, Oshie has targeted injury prevention, something that has been a problem during his seven-year career. When he’s able to stay on the ice, he can be dynamic. Without him, the Blues are missing an element few players can bring. That’s why they are hopeful that Oshie’s consistency remains. Often times it translates into team success.
“He’s a big part of our team, brings a ton of energy to us,” Backes said. “We miss him (when he’s gone).”