By: Doran Grieshaber, Sports Writer
The St. Louis Blues have started the new NHL season red-hot, currently holding the best record in the entire Western Conference. The success is primarily due to the breakout season of left-winger Jaden Schwartz, and the outstanding production of the first line as a whole. The Blues’ defense and goaltending have also been having a good season, allowing one of the lowest goals-against average in the league. The team was riding a three-game win streak before losing to the New York Islanders in their most recent game. The Blues are certainly going to be a playoff team, but the real question will be if this production can be sustained and if St. Louis can finally bring home their first Stanley Cup.
The Blues have had undoubtedly the best first line in the NHL this season. The line consists of Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, and the newly acquired Brayden Schenn. The Blues received Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers in July in exchange for Jori Lehtera and draft picks. Each member of this line is currently tied for first place in the NHL with a plus/minus rating of 15, indicating that when this line is on the ice, the Blues are demolishing their opponents. Schwartz is currently ranked fourth in the league in total points, with Tarasenko and Schenn both tied for 11th. This incredibly productive line has also been backed by a good year in goal for Jake Allen. Allen is currently 17th in goals-against average, but this number is slightly inflated after his last game against the Islanders in which he allowed a whopping five goals. The team currently holds a 2.4 goals-against average which is good for the third lowest average in the league.
The Blues took on the New York Islanders on Saturday night at the Scottrade Center looking to add on to their Western Conference leading 13 wins. Instead, they found themselves in a hole early on, as John Tavares, Casey Cizikas, and Jordan Eberle all scored for the Islanders in the first period. In the second period, Josh Ho-Sang added another goal for the Islanders and Brayden Schenn scored his fifth goal of the season to put the Blues on the scoreboard. Scottie Upshall scored to begin the third period, but New York’s Anders Lee scored as well to defeat the Blues by a final score of 5-2. Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss had 35 saves during the game.
Jaden Schwartz’s breakout season has helped elevate a Blues team from being a middle-of-the-road playoff team to a title contender. He has also helped alleviate some of the offensive load from Tarasenko. The major concern for the Blues is that the first line is providing nearly all of the offense. Schwartz and Tarasenko currently account for 37% of the team’s goals. If St. Louis can get more offensive help from players like Vladimir Sobotka, Alex Steen, and Dmitrij Jaskin, they will be in great shape going forward.