Schwartz, Schenn, Tarasenko "play for each other without the jealous part"
ST. LOUIS -- Forgive Jay Bouwmeester for not seeing it up close and personal before.
Well, in a way, the Blues veteran defenseman has; he's played with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz the past five years, but never in a combination with Brayden Schenn.
Injury forced the 34-year-old Bouwmeester to enjoy a line that is terrorizing the National Hockey League these days, but he got a front row seat of the show on Tuesday.
He got a firsthand look at just how much damage that line is doing to the opposition; they had 12 points in a bludgeoning of the Edmonton Oilers, 8-3, at Scottrade Center.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Brayden Schenn (10) and Jaden Schwartz (17) are all smiles and rightfully
so. With teammate Vladimir Tarasenko, it's been a top line in the NHL.
"I had a good seat tonight. It was pretty special," Bouwmeester said after the game. "There's something to be said with just that chemistry where the little plays around the net, they always seem to find each other. Nobody else really sees them, but all of the sudden, the puck's on the stick. It's fun to watch."
Indeed it is.
And that part about nobody sees them, well, believe it or not, they see each other quite well. Perhaps the only players on the ice they seem to see are each other, because nothing else really matters. Everyone else is invisible.
Schenn and Tarasenko each had two goals and two assists, while Schwartz added a goal and three assists.
Through 22 games, Schenn is ripping to shreds the comparison of value in the trade that sent Jori Lehtera, who has two assists in 14 games, and two first-round picks to the Philadelphia Flyers. Schenn has 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) and his teammates (Schwartz has 11 goals and 19 assists while Tarasenko has 12 goals and 14 assists) are tearing it up also.
They're fourth-sixth in the points scoring race in the league and they lead the NHL in plus-minus (Schenn and Schwartz tied for first at plus-19 and Tarasenko third at plus-18).
Over a full 82-game schedule, consider the following and what the trio would accomplish:
Schenn -- 37 goals, 75 assists = 112 points
Schwartz -- 41 goals, 71 assists = 112 points
Tarasenko -- 45 goals, 52 assists = 97 points
Some would argue that those numbers are unrealistic. Perhaps they are, but what makes this group fun to watch and appreciate what they are accomplishing is that they're not content, not satisfied with what they are doing.
"We definitely just want to keep getting better," Schwartz said after the win Tuesday. "We enjoyed tonight. We'll have fun, but I think we're doing a good job of hitting the reset button every game and getting ready.
"You've got to respect every team in this league. They're all good. We want to make sure that we're continuing to get better. We're going to watch film on us, win or lose, and see what we can do better."
How is that even possible right now?
But that's a primary reason why the Blues are where they are heading into Thanksgiving, at the top of the NHL standings with 33 points and a 16-5-1 mark. They're looking to get better and that line is leading the way striving for more.
Coach Mike Yeo has run out of superlatives.
"I think we've said it. I think we've said it," Yeo said before joking. "Oh, now they fight too."
That came courtesy of Tarasenko's fighting major with Matt Benning in the second period, sticking up for Schenn, of course.
There's no animosity, no jealousy among this trio. Success comes in all shapes and forms for this trio. They support each other and by doing so are having balanced success, and success breeds confidence, and confidence is breeding one of the most potent lines in the league today.
"I felt like I had some pretty good chemistry with guys in Philly, but here it’s just clicking," said Schenn, who is on a career-high eight-game point streak (seven goals, 12 assists). "We’re working for one another, we’re able to control the puck a little bit down low and just kind of find each other on the ice. We kind of know where each other are right now and playing a give-and-go type game and able to create opportunities from it.”
"... You never can be satisfied or happy. I think you just want to come to the rink each day and get better and improve. Don’t sit back just because you’re having success right now. You want to keep pushing and keep working and just try to get better."
Schwartz and Schenn's chemistry began with the Canadian world junior squad in 2011-12. They didn't get a ton of time together, but it's evident that there is some positive residue left over from those days and carrying over to today, but could Schwartz ever imagined this kind of play from Schenn?
"It's tough to say," Schwartz said. "I didn't even know if I was going to play with him or now. I haven't played with him in a while. It's been quite a few years, but I've seen him play growing up too here and in the world junior camps. I knew how good of a player he was. We know all the little things he does. He's getting rewarded for all the work that he's doing."
And then there's Schwartz and Tarasenko, who came into the league together as No. 1 picks by the Blues in 2011, Nos. 14 and 16, respectively. It's only fitting that they've become close teammates, growing together in the only organization that they've known, and that chemistry seems to grow by the second despite at times, both Ken Hitchcock and Yeo (more Hitchcock) splitting them up.
"Me and 'Schwartzy' played like for five years now, sixth year (this year)," Tarasenko said. "I know where he is; I don't need to think. Now we know where 'Schenner' is too. It makes our game easier and when you play like this, you have more emotions and you get pumped up all the time. Good thing we win the games too."
When the Blues brought Schenn in, it was with the plan of playing him at center, and once he, Tarasenko and Schwartz were grouped together, communication was the trigger to set the plans in motion, and now, things are happening instantaneously.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Brayden Schenn has helped form one of the top
lines in the NHL with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir
"I think we're talking about it and working on it and we're starting to play with each other more and getting used to it," Schwartz said. "'Vladi,' I've played with him for a long time, so I know what he likes to do and 'Schenner,' he's just easy to play with. He works hard, he's smart, he can make plays in tight and they're both a lot of fun to play with."
"It don't come from the first game, but we needed time to figure it out and talk with each other," Tarasenko said. "Now we just enjoy our time together on the ice and play for each other without the jealous part and try to create the chances for each other too."
There's a line in Tampa Bay (Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov) that would argue as being the best in the league with 88 points, and rightfully so, as Stamkos and Kucherov are Nos. 1-2 in the league in points, but Schwartz, Schenn and Tarasenko, who have combined for 84, can make their case, but that's not their goal.
"We’re only 22 games in, so we’ve got 82 and playoffs to try and prove that," Schenn said. "So like I said, you can’t be satisfied just because you’ve had a good start to the year. You’ve got to keep on building as a line and continue to improve and, like I said, we’re going to get tough matchups along the way here, good teams, so we’ve got to be able to involve our game and keep on getting better."