Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shattenkirk off to flying start offensively despite no goals

Blueliner leading all defensemen in assists,
points; coach appreciates player's vision on ice

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Nobody was happier to see Barret Jackman score a goal Sunday night than defensive partner Kevin Shattenkirk.

When Jackman, who has 21 goals in 604 career games, blasted a shot from the top of the right circle in Sunday's 5-4 overtime win over Minnesota, Shattenkirk was front and center to congratulate him.

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Kevin Shattenkirk (left) collected two more assists in Sunday's overtime
win over Minnesota, giving him a league-leading eight.
But when asked if he could allow his partner in crime to score more goals that him, Shattenkirk quipped: "It'll be a bad, bad year if that happens. ... I don't know, we'll see. I told him as long as I'm giving him the puck before he scores, I don't care."

Shattenkirk, in his third full season in the NHL, has been giving people a lot of pucks lately. Most are winding up in the opposition's net. Shattenkirk hasn't dented the twine through six games thus far, but the assists are coming often.

Shattenkirk leads all NHL defensemen in assists (eight) as well as points, ahead of three by one point, including teammate Alex Pietrangelo. He's tied with Vladimir Tarasenko for the team lead in points. It's reminiscent to the start he got off to his rookie season in Colorado before being traded to the Blues that season (along with Chris Stewart for a package that included Erik Johnson).

Shattenkirk, the 14th overall pick in 2007 -- Johnson was the top overall pick in 2006 -- started the campaign with 14 points in 15 games and 19 points in 21 games.

"My first year in Colorado, obviously there was a little bit of a streak there," Shattenkirk said.

It's a streak in St. Louis now, and the Blues are glad to see it. Shattenkirk has a point in every game but one. 

"Things are just falling into place," said Shattenkirk, who had 43 points (34 assists) in 81 games last season, his first full one with the Blues. "I'm making a pass out of the d-zone in the first game and Vladi's taking it all the way for a goal.

"Sometimes you just get breaks like that. I'm sure they'll go away at times and it's going to be a little harder to find it and create those chances. Right now, guys are just putting it in the net when I put it on their stick and I couldn't be happier."

Putting it on their sticks is something veteran coach Ken Hitchcock said Shattenkirk does effectively.

"He finds open people, he finds sticks which help on the power play," Hitchcock said. "He knows the angles; if he's going to shoot it wide, he knows where to put it. He's a really smart offensive player.

"First of all, he's physically stronger. He's played. He played quite a bit in Finland (for TPS Turku). His game's just all around calmer and better. I think he's always been a gifted offensive player, but I think when you're an offensive player and the game kind of slows down a little but, then I think you can see guys even make better plays. I think he sees the ice in the offensive zone on that backhand as good as anybody around."

That says a lot considering the Blues have had little time to prepare for the season once the lockout ended. Playing overseas benefited Shattenkirk and others to just slide into the NHL season without missing a beat. But to display the calmness and proficiency in which the 24-year-old is able to do so well gives the Blues another weapon with Pietrangelo, who has seven points himself.

"Usually you have three, four months through (the) all-star break to get ready for that final push Hitch always talks about at the end of the year," Shattenkirk said. "Now you only have two or three weeks to really get into it. I think it forces you to grow up faster in a way, really study your game and make sure you're correcting all your mistakes as soon as possible.
(Mark Buckner/St. Louis Blues)
Kevin Shattenkirk (22) gives the Blues a terrific 1-2 punch on offense with
Alex Pietrangelo on he team's blue line.
"The things we need to work on are pretty much in all those areas ... timing and getting your chemistry right. Those are all things we can feel out, but I think we've just been able to win games because we've been competing so hard. Scotty Nichol mentions it every game: at the very least, just go out there and work and I think at this point of the season, that's what's going to pay off. Once those other things start to come around, you'll start seeing a little bit of crisper play."

So far, Shattenkirk can't complain about the crispness of his play. But players always claim they can be better. The Blues will certainly take Shattenkirk's more than a point-per-game average to compliment their scoring up front.

No comments:

Post a Comment