Saturday, October 15, 2022

Blues third line has ability to change games

Even when numbers say they're not at their best, Schenn, Barbashev, 
Neighbours changed course of season opener in 5-2 win over Columbus

ST. LOUIS -- The analytics, for those that live and die by the numbers, didn't read particularly well for Brayden Schenn, Ivan Barbashev and Jake Neighbours.

Their corsi number read four shots for and 10 against, for a 28.57 rating.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Jake Neighbours (middle) is all smiles after scoring and celebrating with
teammates Ivan Barbashev (left) and Brayden Schenn on Saturday.

Not exactly beaming with dominance.

But for all the talk of how effective the Blues' top two lines can be, that third line, should it stay together, can change a game on a dime no matter how things are going.

Barbashev and Neighbours provided the goals that changed a game in the balance, scoring twice in 20 seconds in the third period to break a tie and send the Blues to a season-opening 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night in front of 18,096 at Enterprise Center.

What people tend to forget is that a third line, normally an energy-type line a coaching staff implements, also has the ability with the right players to be game-changers.

Last season alone, Barbashev was a 60-point player (26 goals, 34 assists) and Schenn had 58 points (24 goals, 34 assists) in just 62 games. And with the young buck Neighbours, whose motor is always in high octane mode, it can do things and get favorable matchups the coaches can certainly take advantage of.

"They have the ability to score, but they're a good identity line for us with work, physicality, doing all that kind of stuff," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "They can change a game when needed, change momentum of a game.

"They were fine. Obviously got us a couple big goals on the third period, but they're just a hard-working line, their forecheck's hard that just goes north. They didn't have a lot going on early on, but their work ethic and hard work paid off in the third."

All it takes is seconds, and the Blues are capable of striking, much like Barbashev and Neighbours did when they scored 20 seconds apart to make a 2-2 game into a 4-2 Blues lead.

"It's huge. You could tell with the emotion on the bench and in the building, it was a big one," Neighbours said. "Obviously with the flat second (period) we were eager to get out to a good start in the third. It was a great play, a good finish by 'Barby' and got the guys going."

"... The building still had so much energy. Everybody was still kind of on their feet. 'Barby' got right back to it, got on the forecheck there, created a turnover, and it was just kind of a hard working play by my line, and the D and everybody on the ice. It was a high-energy moment, getting two back to back there."

There's so much made of Pavel Buchnevich, Robert Thomas and Vladimir Tarasenko and Brandon Saad, Ryan O'Reilly and Jordan Kyrou and rightfully so. That set of lines has great capabilities and can be game-changers themselves. But imagine having the ability to affect the game the way Schenn, Barbashev and Neighbours can with the favorable matchups they'll get.

That line combined for four points tonight, with Schenn picking up two assists, but even at less than their best, they changed the game in a positive way.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Ivan Barbashev is all smiles and celebrates with teammate Torey Krug (47)
after scoring in a 5-2 season-opening win over Columbus Saturday.

"'Schenner' and 'Barby' are two pretty elite players in this league," Neighbours said. "Their offensive talent is swept under the rug a little bit. They're two very talented players and can provide a lot of offense for this team, especially in a third-line role. My job is just to chip in when I can. I think at the same time we're reliable and physical and hard to play against. It's fun playing with those two and hopefully we keep it rolling."

Neighbours scored his second NHL goal, and put a stamp on what was a challenging opener.

"We started to play in the third period, just the way we wanted. We had to," Barbashev said. "If we’re going to play like this, it’s going to be a good season.

"I haven’t played a lot of games with (Neighbours) to be honest, especially with this preseason. I think it’s only our second game together. But he’s a really smart player. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He plays it simple, and it’s really simple to play with him. He’s been great whole camp and I hope he’s just going to keep improving."


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    No blogs from you in weeks???

  2. I have a new site now at

    1. Now at The Hockey News:

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