In the same season where Jaden Schwartz endured a scoring drought that called some to wonder whether he was part of the problem on an underachieving team, he could also become a catalyst toward a playoff run that seems more plausible by the day.
Though Schwartz had just three goals in nearly three months from late December to mid-March, he never really went anywhere. His work could be found frequently in his assist lines–he had 22 of them during the same stretch, allegedly a slump. Schwartz has been a key cog in the development of the Blues success for weeks now, but it's nice for his influence to finally start translating to goals.
“Hitting the back of the net, yeah,” Schwartz said. “Lot of games you get similar chances, they don’t go in.”
If anybody would know, it’s Schwartz. But the top line lived up to its billing in the Blues’ 4-1 win over the Coyotes Monday, and bucking the trend of the last few months, it was Schwartz’s turn to reap the benefits.
“It’s what we’ve been talking with him about for a long time,” Alexander Steen said. He had an assist on each of the Blues' four goals Monday. “Even when he wasn’t scoring he was contributing in so many ways. You’re getting that many chances and doing the right things, playing the team game that he does–eventually it turns in your favor.”
Schwartz had two goals, including one with some dazzling puck handling during a lengthy standoff with the Arizona goaltender Mike Smith. Bumping his point streak to four games, Schwartz showed Monday why his teammates have sung his praises all year–even through the drought.
“He’s easy to play with,” Steen said. “He’s a hard-working guy, which makes it easy to read off him. More times than not, he’s just in the right spot. You see the same area and he jumps toward it. He’s a good player, man.”
Though later in the game, Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko tried to give Schwartz a chance at the hat trick late in the game, Tarasenko eventually had to settle for scoring the goal himself–and was visibly unhappy after doing so.
Still, Schwartz was more than satisfied with the two goals and the two points, which allowed the Blues to keep pace in a competitive playoff picture. Though the Blues are likely a lock for the field, where they slot depends on how they finish the regular season relative to Nashville (89 points) and Calgary (90 points), both of whom won again Monday.
At 88 points, the Blues currently hold the second wild card. That would mean drawing the team with the highest point total in the conference, likely to be the Chicago Blackhawks. Because of the struggles of the second-place Minnesota Wild of late, the Blues have every incentive to try and hop over one or both of the teams directly above them in the standings, in hopes of shaking up their seed in the Western Conference.
“I think it’s gonna go right down to the last couple games and the back-to-back we finish on,” said Jake Allen, Monday's winning goaltender. “Every point is crucial, you can’t take a night off or a period off. We got away with it tonight when it was 0-0 after one, but we’ve got to be ready to go every period. Every point’s big.”
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