Top Blues center will have to pick up some
of the offensive slac Backes, Brouwer vacated
ST. LOUIS -- Taking both David Backes and Troy Brouwer out of the Blues lineup heading into a new season meant there would be a void in the lineup unless someone else helped pick up the slack.
From an offensive standpoint, the Blues would need not just one person but multiple people to each increase their numbers a little bit to make the 45 points and 39 points Backes and Brouwer, respectively, brought to the table, a seamless transition.
Paul Stastny has been down this road before; he jumped out of the gates quickly his first season in St. Louis in 2014-15 when he started off with four points in two games before a shoulder injury sidelined him eight games that saw the 30-year-old get one goal in 10 games.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Through three games this season, Blues center Paul Stastny leads the
team with six points (two goals, four assists) is tied for the league-lead in
points and assists.
It's a small sample size, yes, but Stastny is at it again. His six points (two goals, four assists) through three games after a goal and assist in a 3-2 victory against the New York Rangers on Saturday puts him on a pace for 164 points, which is ridiculously good in a Gretzky/Lemieux-like way and will all but never happen (never say never).
But seeing as Stastny, in the third year of a four-year, $28 million contract he signed in 2014 to "come home," is anchoring the top line with Robby Fabbri on left wing and Alexander Steen on the right side, the Blues are going to need a larger influx of points from Stastny and others.
But it's not just the points Stastny is supplying; he's also important on both sides of special teams, wins a high percentage of faceoffs and play's Ken Hitchcock's 200-foot game.
"Everyone's chipping in," Stastny said. "There's nights when I'll chip in more than others, and then there will be nights when other guys are chipping in more.
"Everyone's kind of creating chances. We're getting touches on the power play. We're all feeling it. We're moving the puck well. When we play as a unit of five, especially on the power play, and everyone is moving around, it makes it a lot easier on everybody."
Nothing was easy on Stastny and Co. on Saturday.
After losing two forwards and one defenseman for the entire third period, the Blues still managed a way to win a game (thanks to Carter Hutton in goal) despite being outshot 15-0.
But it was Stastny and Steen, who played defenseman-like minutes at 23:30 and and 23:31, respectively, that picked up a bulk of the load to help the Blues win their third game in as many nights in four days.
And that doesn't even account for the historically solid faceoff numbers Stastny, who has 188 career goals and 559 points in 679 NHL games, possesses; he's at 53 percent for his career.
"Him and Steen, they're doing everything for us right now," Hitchcock said. "They're killing all the penalties, they're on the power play, they're out against the top line, they're doing everything for us. They're playing huge minutes.
"Both guys for me are carrying the day for us. I think for us, what we need is more participants up front. We need more people giving us better minutes up front because we can't just keep relying on the same two or three guys all the time."
Stastny scored the game-winner in the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks on opening night, then set up Alex Pietrangelo for the eventual game-winner Saturday.
"He's our go-to guy right now," Pietrangelo said of Stastny. "He's obviously putting big numbers up now; he has since the end of last season.
"He's great. He's playing the way we need him to be. He's playing in all situations. Him, 'Steener,' 'Vladi' (Tarasenko), all our forwards are playing great right now, but obviously Paul's leading the charge and he's on top of his game."
Stastny had lots of success playing with Fabbri and Brouwer late last season and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs; he finished last regular season with 19 points in 15 games and a carryover effect of playing with at least one linemate of beneficial.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Paul Stastny has been a key contributor in the Blues'
3-0-0 start to the season this year.
"I played with 'Fabs' all second half of the season last year, played with 'Steener,' and then played in playoffs, it was either me, 'Fabs' and 'Brouws,' and then it me, 'Brouws' and 'Steener,'" Stastny said. "We haven't played together, but now we're getting more and more comfortable playing together because we only had two preseason games together. As individuals, they're easy to play with, but now as a line, I think every game it gets a little more and more comfortable when we're starting to support each other from the D-zone all the way to the O-zone.
"Looking at the schedule to start the season, there's no easy games anymore. Division games are all tough, and then you almost want to take your foot off the gas when you play an Eastern Conference team, but then you're playing a team like the Rangers, who have been one of the top Eastern Conference teams four, five, six years in a row now, They're all tough games. For us to come out with three wins, that was big, especially in four nights."