Any team playing against the Blues right now knows what to expect; the impressive form of Jake Allen, their pride in blocking shots, a lackluster power play, and the aggressive play of defenders in the offensive zone, one of which happens to be the current points leader among NHL defensemen.
But the thing that makes most coaches cringe playing St. Louis, as of late, is the chemistry, skill, and relentlessness of the Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko line.
In a win against the Maple Leafs on Saturday, the trio combined for 1 goal and 8 assists while Schenn racked up four helpers (a career high) on the way to a 6-4 victory. With 18 goals, 33 assists, and 51 points in the first 15 games, they’ve established themselves as one of the top line pairings in the NHL.
Tarasenko owes their execution to chemistry.
“Everytime I get a puck off the forecheck or off their D’s, I know where Schwartzy and I’ll get used to where Schenner [are going to be] and it just makes the game easier.”
But what has changed this year that has helped headstrong such an enormous start?
The Philadelphia Flyers were willing to deal Schenn away on draft day as they were unimpressed by his 5-on-5 stats throughout his tenure with the team. The Blues, needing help on the power play, saw a guy who scored 17 of his 25 goals last year with the extra helper, which led the league, and decided he was worth the gamble.
What neither realized, however, is that Brayden Schenn is a catalyst.
In 2011, a blockbuster trade sent Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn to the Flyers while Mike Richards became the newest member of the LA Kings.
Simmonds had received backlash from some Kings fans as being “the worst pick in the draft”. In three seasons with the Kings, he never scored more than 16 goals and registered a 40 point season only once.
His first year on the Flyers in 2011, with Brayden Schenn as his linemate this time, Wayne Simmonds had a breakout season. Making his presence known, he recorded 28 goals, 21 assists and finished the season a point shy of the 50 mark.
Maybe Schenn’s biggest contribution to a team is not what shows up in the statbook, but bringing out the best in his linemates. That would certainly explain the genesis of the Wayne Simmonds scoring saga and the magnitude at which Jaden Schwartz is generating points this year.
“He’s a skilled guy, but he works hard”, Schwartz said of his centerman, “He works hard to get open, he works hard to get pucks back…for some reason we just click and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Schenn has the same praise for Schwartz.
“He’s got all the skill in the world and hes got the vision, but you won’t see too many guys work harder than him on a nightly basis.”
The work ethic for both of these young men is characterized in their badgering forechecks that lead to so many turnovers and opportunities going the other way. Their similar styles of play could be a reason as to why they “click” so well.
Since 2016, when David Backes left in free agency, Blues fans have been screaming for a number one center who can complement Tarasenko and bring their team the championship they’ve so desperately desired for the past 50 years.
Is it too soon to ask if Brayden Schenn could be that player?