Fourth liners in the NHL don’t get enough credit, but the St. Louis Blues dynamic unspoken duo-Scottie Upshall and Kyle Brodziak-take that standard to a whole new level.
Example: During Saturday night’s game with the Carolina Hurricanes, the pair contributed goals that kicked off the Blues scoring-and capped the activities with a game-winning goal. It wasn’t your ordinary scrappy goal that gave the Blues a much-needed 2017 sealing 3-2 win. Upshall’s tally was a wicked slick goal that included a precise finish.
Jay Bouwmeester took a pass from Alex Pietrangelo and banked it off the boards to Vladimir Tarasenko, who then fed a surging Brayden Schenn past mid-ice and into the Carolina Hurricanes’ zone. Upshall flew down the wing, took a nice dish from Schenn, and lifted the puck just enough over the defenseman’s stick to put it between the goaltender’s legs. What followed was the customary Upshall celebration: A kneel and a fist bump with a standing leg kick. Boom, Blues win! And boom, the fourth line did it.
Upshall has enjoyed six fist bump/leg kick celebrations already in the 2017-18 season, which is a lot for a fourth liner at the halfway point-but here’s the thing: Upshall and Brodziak aren’t your normal energy line grunts. On most NHL teams, these guys could be third line contributors, and damn good ones. Their purpose on the Blues is to get on the ice, be reckless with their bodies, sharp with their minds, and collect the dirty minutes that the studs aren’t built for.
Plus, they score goals and win hockey games. They are the unheralded everyman types who will never get enough credit-until now when 28 people read this article.
Together, they look like a HGTV series promo. The handsome jock with Wall Street hair and the ginger bearded friendly tough guy with a need to impose his will. They could get a Travel Channel series in a heartbeat, but they are reliable hockey players, so that phase will be on hold.
Reminder: The Blues almost didn’t retain Upshall. He was brought back extremely late on Sept. 29, when the Blues were reeling from injuries and needed some depth protection. This came after a season in which he put up ten goals and eight assists in 73 games.
What some people may not know is that both these players have enjoyed prominent goal producing seasons in the past. Upshall put up 22 goals back in 2010-11 and Brodziak had 22 back in 2011-12. Each have collected multiple seasons of double digit goal seasons.
And please, don’t sabe me with these guys. Corsi dry humpers will tell me Upshall has a sub-50% Corsi For and a negative +/- rating. I’ll let you in on a little secret: that shit doesn’t tell the whole story, and most of the time, not even half.
In a recent game, the Blues were being shut out until Brodziak scored two goals in 120 seconds to make it 3-2. A fourth liner producing the scrap and putting up the jack. Welcome to the modern hockey line arrangement.
If only the top three lines could be as potent as these two at putting the puck in the net. It’s too bad Paul Stastny and Alex Steen can’t find a way to score when Upshall and Brodziak (5 points in past 5 games) are doing more than their fair share.
Fun fact: Upshall and Brodziak will make a combined $1.75 million this season for their services. In terms of forwards, only the rookies make less. These two make as much as Chris Thorburn. Chew on that for a minute as I remind you of their current stat lines.
Upshall: Six goals, eight assists
Brodziak-Seven goals, eight assists (matches 2016-17 point total)
When Ryan Reaves departed for Pittsburgh, I wondered if the fourth line would be as strong. After all, 75-9-28 were a well-oiled machine that put bruises on the other team’s body and the scoreboard last season. Would the big fella leaving hurt that? The answer was a resounding no. Upshall and Brodziak have skated with different players on the line this season, but none as effective as Reaves. Yet, they get the job done, and then some.
That’s it. It was time someone talked about how great Scottie Upshall and Kyle Brodziak have been for the Blues, and how lost they’d be without them.
Thanks for reading in 2017 and always buy more bourbon,