If there was one question about the Blues' ability to succeed coming into the season, it was probably related to sources of secondary scoring.
Vladimir Tarasenko was the known quantity, the bona fide goal scorer. Sure, he could go insane and put up 50 goals this season, putting the offense on his back even more so than he has done in past years, but the Blues would still need quality production from others in the goals column to fortify playoff aspirations.
While it’s still early, those contributions seem to be pouring in from all directions.
Jaden Schwartz’s fast start to the season has been well documented. It continued in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Flames at Scottrade Center, with Schwartz cleaning up a Tarasenko rebound for his team-leading seventh goal of the season. Tied for third in the NHL in goals, Schwartz sits alone in third across the league with 14 points. That’s better than ‘secondary’ scoring—in Tarasenko and Schwartz, the Blues have enjoyed a pair of legitimate top scoring threats.
And it hasn’t stopped there.
The defense has chipped in with 12 goals through ten games, led by the captain Alex Pietrangelo’s four. He added another on the power play Wednesday after drawing the penalty that put them on the man-advantage in the first place. Pietrangelo leads the NHL in points by a defenseman with 12, an offensive pace that his head coach has come to expect.
“We all knew he was capable of that, and you don’t put every player in those positions,” Mike Yeo said. “There’s a reason why he’s starting on power plays, there’s a reason why we try to put him into offensive situations with offensive players. We knew that he had that capability. He’s done it in the past. He’s done it at every level and we think that he can do it this year.”
Following the Blues’ trade of fellow offensively-minded defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk last season, Pietrangelo moved into his role on the top power play unit and proceeded to finish the year on nearly a point per game pace, with 18 points in his final 20 regular season games. With that in mind, Yeo looks forward to more of the same from the captain.
“He played behind (Shattenkirk) in a lot of those situations (last year),” Yeo said. “Now it’s Petro’s turn to take over and have the spotlight in some of those situations.”
With Schwartz and Pietrangelo each taking the next step in their games, the other major development from Wednesday night could be the resurgence of Alexander Steen following a slow stretch in the stat sheet in his return from a hand injury that derailed his productive preseason.
“It was tough having Steener have that injury because I thought like he looked really good in training camp,” Yeo said. “I feel like he’s a step quicker this year; he did a heck of a job this summer, coming in in really good shape. You could tell with the training and focus he had this summer that he was a motivated hockey player.”
Though Steen had been back for three prior games, Wednesday marked his first impact on the box score—and it was significant, as Steen erupted for a goal and three assists to aid the victory.
“I’ve been happy with the way I’ve been playing, just a little bit frustrated that I haven’t been able to contribute offensively,” Steen said. “Tonight’s one of those nights where I just happened to get on the right side of the goals, so it was nice, obviously.”
Points or not, Steen’s impact on the lineup puts the Blues in position to continue to thrive as they have done consistently through the early going this season.
“A lot of the stuff that he does goes unnoticed,” Pietrangelo said of Steen. “His contributions on both sides of the puck is the stuff that a lot of people don’t see. The guys who play with him everyday really appreciate what he does in terms of the defensive side and obviously we know what he can do on the offensive side.”