Ramblings: Schwartz is Back! (Jan 26)

steve laidlaw

2018-01-26

 

Jaden Schwartz did make his return for St. Louis last night. He skated 18:22 on a line with Brayden Schenn and Alex Steen along with top power play unit time. No points, but it’s safe to say he’s back in business. Just in time for Schenn who has goals in four straight games.

Alex Pietrangelo too has started to pick up the pace again with six points in his last seven games. With Schwartz back it sure feels like there are going to be a few career performances out of St. Louis, none more shocking than Carter Hutton.

Even after getting bombed by the Coyotes earlier this week the Blues still rode Hutton for the final two starts pre-All-Star. They are really riding the hot hand here, but perhaps more importantly, giving Jake Allen enough time away to rebuild his fundamentals. Remember, Allen was trash until the All-Star break last season before going on a 16-8-2 tear with a 1.93 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage. Hutton represents a hurdle, but we cannot rule out another wild run from Allen.

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Alex DeBrincat scored his second hat-trick of the season. This one came out of nowhere as he had scored just three goals and nine points over the past 23 games since the start of December. This highlights the immense potential that he boasts. I don’t know if he’ll ever consistently skate on a line with Patrick Kane because the Nick Schmaltz/Kane marriage seems firm, but I do suspect that he could play on the Blackhawks’ top power play unit. They are still looking for the right fit to play in the Artemi Panarin spot and it’s a spot he seems perfect for.

Of course, it sometimes takes a long time for efficient scores to earn consistent top PP usage for whatever reason. Tyler Toffoli STILL can’t get it in Los Angeles. Or how about an example from the Blackhawks, where it took until this season for Brandon Saad to get consistent top PP run only for him to fail miserably.

Saad, by the way, is scoreless in eight straight games and has seen his minutes slipping down into the 16-minute range after averaging about 19 per game for the first two months of the year. Most of that drop is from a loss of PP use, but he is bouncing all over the lineup and failing to perform. His shot rate is still firmly above 3.0 SOG per game, however, so at least you can lean on that.

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Patrice Bergeron in 2018: nine goals and 17 points in 10 games. Is there anyone hotter?

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