A team’s “identity” always makes for good sports talk, especially in hockey where physicality and speed make up so much of the game. One could look at NHL history and see times when speedy, finesse teams won the day and other periods where bruisers came out on top more often.
This year’s Blues match up better with the former category, which has been GM Doug Armstrong’s chief aim the past few years, and which seems to be paying off under Mike Yeo judging by how they’ve operated this season.
“A couple years ago in the west, everyone wanted to be big like the LA Kings then the Chicago Blackhawks were winning championships and you wanted to play fast,” The Athletic writer and our Blues insider Jeremy Rutherford recently said. “The Blues didn’t have the speed or the skill to be able to compete with those Blackhawks teams.
“So it’s morphed and now I think under Mike Yeo the idea is they, like a lot of teams, want to play collectively as a five-man group. I know that could be the identity of any team, but what the Blues want to do is just get up the ice and put pressure on teams in the offensive zone.”
Which they’ve done quite well a vast majority of this season; not counting a recent two-game lull with losses to the Islanders and Flames in which the Note gave away too many pucks.
“That’s why (they had) all the success early on in the season. Because they weren’t (committing turnovers),” JR added. “They had the fewest giveaways in the league up until a couple games ago and then it got away from them and they had 14 giveaways in the Calgary game.
Captain Obvious might say something like, “If you lessen your turnovers you have a better chance of winning hockey games,” but this is especially true of this year’s Blues and Thursday’s 4-1 win at Edmonton is exhibit A.
“Last night — five giveaways and they’re holding onto the puck. They’re supporting each other, they had some offensive zone-time,” JR said. “Granted, it took a couple special teams goals to get them going, but I thought they showed a lot more patience and a lot more cohesion getting the puck up ice and playing together.”
“That’s what their identity is. It’s playing as a group and getting up the ice as fast as you can and using that ability to create that offensive zone-time.”
Schenn strikes again and again
Brayden Schenn added two more goals (7) in Thursday’s win to go with another assist (18)…Who would have thought he’d be leading the NHL in +/- at a plus-16 through 20 games to go with 25 points? Outsiders could point to line-mates Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz as potential reasoning for Schenn’s success, but it seems he’s the one helping them.
The scouting report on Schenn coming out of Philly was he wasn’t made to be a center, but lo and behold, he’s centering the bejesus out of a line with two more-than-solid scorers as his wings.
“Brayden Schenn can play center,” Rutherford said. “I know that it helps playing with guys like Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko…But I think Brayden Schenn brings a lot to that line. He’s not relying on them. He’s helping them.”
“He’s been terrific defensively and I think the Blues got a much better player than they envisioned, and right now that trade looks like a landslide giving up Jori Lehtera for Brayden Schenn.”
You can catch Jeremy Rutherford’s entire interview from Friday’s Bernie Miklasz Show below:
Stay tuned to 101ESPN and 101Sports.com for plenty of Blues coverage and analysis throughout the season.