The St. Louis Blues defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-1 Tuesday night behind their red-hot top line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko. All three forwards scored one goal and they accounted for all 7 points that led the Blues to their NHL-leading 12th win.
Schwartz was the named the NHL’s third star for the month of October as he collected a point in 11 of 13 appearances and finished the month with eight goals and nine assists. We are now only eight days into November and Schwartz has added one goal and another three assists for a total of 21 points, good for third best in the NHL. Schenn has four goals and 14 assists this season and Tarasenko has eight goals and 11 assists. For a whopping 58 total points between the three forwards.
Putting the Top Line Together
“It came together pretty uniquely, you had Schenn and Schwartz put together in training camp and they had a lot of chemistry,” Jeremy Rutherford of the Athletic said Tuesday on 101 ESPN in St. Louis.
Schenn was acquired when the Blues made a draft night trade that sent their 27th pick that they possessed from Washington (Kevin Shattenkirk trade), forward Jori Lehtera and a conditional pick in 2018 to the Philadelphia Flyers. The deal addressed the Blues’ need for goal scoring after they struggled to put the puck in the net down the stretch in the postseason. St. Louis only scored 22 goals in their 11 postseason games last season, the worst for any team that advanced to the second round. Clearly, the move has paid off so far this season as the Blues are averaging 3.27 goals per game 12th best in the NHL.
“Going into the year Mike Yeo wanted to see Tarasenko and Statsny to see some time together because that worked a little bit last year, but there’s no denying what’s going on with those other three right now,” Rutherford said.
Tarasenko has been able to work with just about anyone on the ice since he has been in St. Louis. Case in point, Lehtera, who did not live up to expectations during his time in a blue note sweater, but his best moments came on lines with Tarasenko.
Prior to this season Schwartz and Tarasenko had also shown flashes of greatness together. The skill sets of Schwartz’ high energy forecheck, along with Tarasenko’s shooting ability makes for a deadly one-two punch. Add-in Schenn and you have a threesome that is gelling more than any line we have seen from the Blues in quite some time.
It’s been fun, Two guys with tons of skill, if we work for one another, we’ll be a good line. Schenn said postgame Tuesday night. “I think each guy in the line brings something different. Obviously, ‘Vladi’s’ a shooter and can pretty much score at any given time and he’s getting chances and ‘Schwartzy’s so good on the forecheck and seeing the ice and taking away pucks. The three of us feel it, but compliment each other at the same time.”
Top line stacks up with the best
The newfound combination had nine points against Toronto on Saturday and had all seven points for the Blues on Tuesday. The line has been the key to the Blues matching their best 16-game start in franchise history with 25 points.
According to Left Wing Lock, the Blues top line leads qualifying line combinations in shot attempts for (57.6%), shot attempts against (84), USAT% or fraction of all unblocked shot attempts that were unblocked shot attempts for (61%), and shooting percentage (14.2%).
Tampa Bay’s top line combination of Nikita Kucherov-Steven Stamkos-Vladislav Namestnikov has allowed twice as many opposing shots (168), has accounted for nearly 20% less of their teams’ goals and is shooting nearly two points less accurate (12.6%) than the Blues top line. While the Lightning combo has tallied four more total points (62) and Tampa Bay did defeat St. Louis 2-1 on October 14th the numbers tell us that Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko is currently the most efficient and effective line in the NHL.