Patrik Berglund becoming a difference maker -

Patrik Berglund becoming a difference maker

(HockeyStL) -- The NHL playoffs always seem to bring out the best in players, and every postseason there is a distinguished hero, someone who stands out from the pack, and leads his team to victory.  The Blues may be experiencing this spectacle with their young center: Patrik Berglund.

Patrik Berglund, 23, came into the postseason, looking to prove himself to his Blues’ teammates after having another mediocre season.  Berglund was projected to have a career year after his incredible offseason in which he participated in the IIHF world championships and led the tournament in scoring. The Blues had high expectations for Berglund, but he unfortunately did not live up the hype.  Scoring only 19 goals and falling short of the 50 point mark for the third time in his four year NHL career, was not what either he or the Blues envisioned.

The 6’4”, 219 pound center has all of the traits needed to thrive at the NHL level.  He is a big, strong player with great hands and great hockey sense.  Unfortunately, Berglund has been hesitant to go to the areas of the ice that generate quality scoring chances.  However, the NHL’s second season has sparked Berglund, and given him new life.

The Swedish Native netted his third goal of the playoffs on Monday on the power play as the Blues took a two to one series lead over the San Jose Sharks.  Berglund has been instrumental in the Blues’ two playoff wins, and has become effective because he has returned to the style of game that best suits him.  During the regular season it was a rare occurrence to see Berglund in a position to score or to even contribute offensively, therefore no one believed Berglund would have an impact in this series, no one but head coach Ken Hitchcock.

Before the series was underway, Hitchcock said this would be the type of series Berglund could thrive in.  With a slower San Jose Sharks team that required physical attention, Berglund could make a huge impact on the series.  This prediction has made Hitchcock look brilliant, as he was likely one of the few people who thought Berglund would play a role in this series.  Statistically Berglund has been unable to find his groove against San Jose, scoring only one goal, and registering just five assists in his previous 15 games against the Sharks, which makes his recent outbreak much more interesting.

Berglund’s three goals amount for one-third of the Blues’ nine series goals, and his four points trail only Andy McDonald for the Note.  Berglund has made his line a dominant force every time they take the ice, making simple, but key plays to help his line mates raise their level of play.  Berglund’s average ice time of 22:50 leads all Blues forwards, and has increased nearly six minutes from his regular season average of 17:58, evidencing that Hitchcock is using Berglund’s versatility to the team’s advantage, and Berglund is not disappointing.  Whether he is taking part in the man advantage, or helping to kill off an opponent power play, Berglund is making his presence known.  Never has Berglund been this noticeable in front of the opponent goalie, wreaking havoc on them, and dramatically decreasing their chances of finding pucks, never has Berglund played this big of a role in the Blues’ offense, leading the charge down the ice, and finding ways to produce, and never has Berglund shown that he is capable of consistently producing, at both end of the ice, consistently, like he has of late.

The Blues have waited patiently for four long years for Berglund to elevate his game to a level where he can be consistently relied upon.  After a very good 2010-11 season Berglund declined, but after watching him in the first three Western Conference Quarterfinal games, it is apparent that he is still capable of being a difference maker.  The Blues could be seeing the emergence of an elite player, and if his past three games are any indication as to where he is headed, the future is very bright for the young center.

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