(HockeyStL) -- This offseason, the Blues found themselves actively engaging players that were on the free agent market, and the club landed some of the guys they were targeting. The Blues showed confidence in their signings, but there was always a bit of doubt surrounding a few of the new players, particularly forwards Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow.
Roy and Morrow have had impressive careers in the National Hockey League, but the jury was still out in regards to whether or not they could contribute on a consistent basis. But head coach Ken Hitchcock showed significant confidence in the two and placed them together on the same line, along with Chris Stewart, who was the team’s top goal scorer last season. It turned out to be a rewarding move.
“As we get settled in, that line, moving forward, is going to really help us,” said Hitchcock.
The Blues, like most hockey teams, like to focus on a team game. Individualism is not welcomed, or accepted. Their focus on a team game is what makes Morrow and Roy big additions to the club. Roy has more of a pass-first approach, whereas Morrow likes to drive to the net and look for second-chance goals. With Roy’s vision, the line is able to create opportunities in ways the club hasn’t been able to in a while. Morrow and Stewart are known for their goal-scoring abilities, and Roy makes their job easier.
“They are a (good) line for us,” said Hitchcock after the Blues’ first game. “If we can get them to shoot more; if we can get them to really play more north-south with that skill level, especially with the things Derek can do with the puck, that could be a real effective line (down the stretch).”
And the Blues got to see plenty of what Morrow and Roy are capable of in their second regular season game this past Saturday.
Both Roy and Morrow netted goals in Saturday’s 7-0 rout of the Florida Panthers, but aside from their contributions on the score sheet, they were arguably the Blues’ best line overall. It shouldn’t come as a surprise considering Roy and Morrow have 1,002 points between them in their careers
“Derek’s line was really good (on Saturday),” Hitchcock said. “They had energy. ‘Stewie’ skated and handled the puck really well, Brenden is really starting to get the tempo now, and Derek has had two big games. Once he got acclimated after the first period of the first game he has had two really sound games.”
Roy, who is best-known for his playing time with Buffalo, is eager to prove that he can stay healthy enough to be a contributor nightly. He had four consecutive 60-plus point seasons while with the Sabres, and, while Roy may not be the same high-level point producer he once was, he is developing into an important asset for St. Louis. He, along with Morrow, has shut up the skeptics early on, but it remains to be seen if they can keep them quiet.
The line of Morrow-Roy-Stewart has seemingly developed some chemistry in the early goings, and since it is the Blues’ second forward line, it is facing off against some of the opponents’ best defenders. But that hasn’t kept them off of the score sheet.
In two games, the three forwards have combined for seven points, which is more than any of the team’s other three lines. Chris Stewart is the only member of the line without a goal scored, but he has contributed with two assists. Of the three, Roy has the most points (3) and is tied for the team-lead in that category. The effectiveness of a player isn’t based solely on the points according to Morrow, but contributing in that aspect always feels good.
“It’s nice to be able to contribute (on the score sheet),” he said. “I learned early on in my career not to judge my game on statistics but it always feels rewarding to contribute with goals and assists and making plays on the ice.”
The Blues, as a team, have scored 11 goals in their first two games. While the Morrow-Roy-Stewart line is clicking, it isn’t the only one doing so. When looking at the Blues’ roster, it’s not hard to envision the club finding substantial success this season. Bringing in Morrow and Roy this offseason added to an already-deep forward group that uses a scoring-by-committee approach, which, when effective, replaces the need for a star player.
“We’ve known all along that we probably don’t have that superstar talent, but it’s a grinding team that is solid throughout,” said Morrow. “Anyone can be the hero on any given night. It makes it hard to defend and compete against when you’ve got all cylinders pumping.”
It’s hard to foresee this line being broken up anytime in the near future with the way they are playing. Chemistry, or the lack thereof, is sometimes the hardest issue to deal with once the season gets underway. Morrow and Roy have found chemistry, and are on pace to make general manager Doug Armstrong look like a genius for signing them. They may be the new Blues, but Morrow and Roy are settling in just fine.