Playoff X-Factor: Jaden Schwartz

Hitchcock said Schwartz provides energy to his group of forwards

Monday, 04.29.2013 / 11:56 AM CT / St Louis Blues - Features
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Playoff X-Factor: Jaden Schwartz
St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock acknowledged that rookie forward Jaden Schwartz has provided his forward group with much-needed energy.


Related Link: Blues Stanley Cup Playoff Coverage

In the final week of the regular season, as St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock cited the compressed NHL schedule as one reason for his team's sudden bout with fatigue, he acknowledged one player among his forward group who was helping provide some energy.

"When you see a guy like [Jaden] Schwartz, he's been tremendous the last two games. We need more like that. We need more compete," Hitchcock said after his team's 2-1 win against the Dallas Stars on April 19. "Our forwards have looked really tired. We've got a week to keep winning hockey games and find a way to re-energize ourselves up front."

The next game, Hitchcock rewarded the rookie's energy by playing him 15:45 in a 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Enjoying his highest ice-time total in almost seven weeks, the 20-year-old didn't let his coach down, blasting a shot past Jean-Sebastien Giguere in the second period to cut the Avalanche lead to 3-2. Playing alongside captain David Backes, Schwartz has shown flashes of the skill that compelled St. Louis to select him No. 14 in the 2010 NHL Draft.

In recent seasons, whether it was Dwight King and Slava Voynov with the Los Angeles Kings or Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand with the Boston Bruins, rookie contributions have proven to be crucial in long runs during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Schwartz could provide the same boost of energy for a Blues team featuring a number of hard-nosed forwards.

The breakout moment for the rookie may have come April 1 in a 4-1 road win against the Minnesota Wild that opened a month that has been Schwartz's best as a pro.

With the Blues coming in having lost four of their previous five games, Schwartz started the scoring midway through the first period on a play that was emblematic of what the Blues want to do as a team. He pounced on a failed clearing attempt before aggressively moving to his off-wing and snapping a perfect far-side shot past Niklas Backstrom. In the second period, with the Blues nursing a 2-1 lead, Schwartz made a nifty move along the half-wall before feeding a perfect backhand pass to Kevin Shattenkirk, who slapped home a point shot to double the St. Louis lead.

It was a monster performance considering the Wild came into the game enjoying a 10-2-0 stretch. Schwartz has been getting a regular shift ever since, a likely relief for a player whose ice time had been reduced severely in February. And the Colorado College product has shown the ability to score in the past, with goals in each of his first two NHL games and totaling nine goals and 19 points in 33 games this season with Peoria of the American Hockey League.

If Schwartz can continue to develop and earn Hitchcock's trust, he could be the spark plug the Blues need to make an extended postseason run.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - ANA 78 49 22 7 227 216 105
2 x - NSH 78 47 22 9 224 193 103
3 STL 76 46 23 7 229 190 99
4 CHI 76 46 24 6 217 176 98
5 MIN 76 44 25 7 219 186 95
6 VAN 77 45 27 5 224 208 95
7 CGY 77 42 28 7 229 204 91
8 WPG 77 39 26 12 217 204 90
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10 DAL 77 37 30 10 239 248 84
11 SJS 76 37 30 9 212 215 83
12 COL 76 35 29 12 206 213 82
13 EDM 76 23 40 13 185 255 59
14 ARI 77 23 46 8 161 256 54

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2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
V. Tarasenko 76 36 35 25 71
A. Steen 73 24 38 6 62
J. Schwartz 69 24 32 12 56
D. Backes 75 25 29 6 54
T. Oshie 67 19 33 13 52
P. Stastny 68 14 29 3 43
A. Pietrangelo 76 6 36 -6 42
J. Lehtera 69 11 29 16 40
K. Shattenkirk 51 8 32 15 40
P. Berglund 71 9 13 -7 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
B. Elliott 24 14 3 .919 2.20
J. Allen 19 6 4 .906 2.45

 
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