We’ve talked a lot about teams here over the last week and a half of Rivalry Week, because when you think team sports rivalries, you usually think about hatred between two cities’ clubs. It’s important to recognize, though, that sometimes an individual player’s prowess against their opponents is a big part of forming a rivalry. There are some teams where you cringe when they come to town, not because of the team, but because of that one guy. When you see that one guy a couple times a year, I’m not sure it’s going to build a team vs. team rivalry - Alexander Ovechkin scores on the Blues nearly every time the two teams play, and he scores in the exact same way each time, but I don’t think anyone hates the Caps.
When you see that player often enough, though, you start to dread what’s coming, and that can certainly fuel the growth of a rivalry. The Blues have a few candidates for that within their division.
Without a doubt, when it comes to the current roster of the Blackhawks, that player is Patrick Kane. This year in four games against the Blues he had two goals in four games. Last season? Five goals and four assists in five games. Over the course of his career, he has 63 points in 66 games against St. Louis, good for .95 points per game. The Blackhawks’ poor performance against the Blues knocked it down a peg this year; had the Hawks played better, his total could be above a point a game.
Patrik Laine has played against the Blues well in his career so far. This year he had two goals and two assists in four games; over his brief career he has 18 points in 16 games. 2018-2019 was a standout year for him against the Blues, with six goals and an assist. These totals were bolstered by a five goal performance on November 24th of that season in a blowout 8-4 loss to the Jets for the Blues. Laine’s teammate, Mark Scheifele, also plays the Blues very well. Last season he had four assists in four games, and has 28 points in 29 games.
Tyler Seguin has 26 points in 34 games against the Blues, which isn’t anything to sneeze at, but teammate Jamie Benn has been pretty consistently a pain to play against. In eleven seasons, Benn has 42 points in 44 games against the Blues, and twenty of those points have been goals. On a team with as much firepower as the Stars have, it can be easy to overlook their captain as he ages, but Blues fans shouldn’t get complacent.
Colorado has the one-two punch of Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, which is why they’ve become the biggest threat to the Blues in the division as of late. MacKinnon has 26 points (11G, 15A) in 29 games while Landeskog has notched 20 in 38 GP. Landeskog is always a threat, but MacKinnon seems to be the guy on the Avs that drives the growing rivalry between the teams.
Finally, there’s my pick for the player that contributes the most to any team’s rivalry with the Blues, Filip Forsberg. Since being acquired by the Preds as a prospect from the Caps for Martin Erat and Michael Latta in 2013 in a trade that’s been roundly criticized as one of the most one-sided in the last decade (SportsNet’s Mike Johnston called it a “dumpster fire”), Forsberg has been the most potent threat against the Blues in the division. It’s easy to hate on Patrick Kane, for obvious reasons, or to crack Jamie Benn jokes, but Forsberg is the real deal who is set to make the Blues’ lives hard for seasons to come. He has 28 points in 29 games against St. Louis, giving him a PPG of .96, edging out Patrick Kane by a nose as the player that’s most lethal in the Central against St. Louis out of those mentioned here.
The Blues and the Preds may have a young rivalry, but as long as Forsberg is in Music City, it’s going to grow deeper. Patrick Kane might be the player that Blues fans love to hate the most, but Forsberg should be the one that they keep their eye on for the foreseeable future.