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Sobotka's Versatility is Key for Blues

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 3:38 PM / St Louis Blues - Features
By Dan Rosen  - NHL.com
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Sobotka\'s Versatility is Key for Blues
Vladimir Sobotka isn\'t even the most-heralded Vladimir on the Blues, but he might be the most important.

Vladimir Sobotka isn't even the most-heralded Vladimir on the St. Louis Blues. But he is the most important.

Sobotka trails behind the still-injured Vladimir Tarasenko in notoriety, but he's as vital to the Blues' chances of winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup as any other forward on the roster because of the role he plays and how coach Ken Hitchcock uses him.

"He absolutely despises losing, and that to me is No. 1 when you look at the character of Vladimir Sobotka," Blues television analyst Darren Pang told NHL.com. "There is no player more grumpy after a bad play, bad loss or a bad effort than Sobotka. He absolutely carries everybody into the fight with him."

Sobotka would likely be the Blues' second-line center behind David Backes if everyone is healthy, but he can play on either wing too, especially if Hitchcock wants to use Patrik Berglund and Derek Roy in the middle. Sobotka was one of six regulars who did not play in the final game of the regular season, but is one that could be ready for Game 1 of the first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

If the Blues need to win an important faceoff, Sobotka can do it, particularly if it is on his strong side in the defensive zone. He was better than 60 percent in more than 800 faceoffs this season.

"Sobotka doesn't surprise anybody anymore," Pang said. "He's been at the top of the League all season. He's been over 70 percent in a lot of games. That's not a surprise by any stretch."

Sobotka is an important part of the Blues' dangerous power play and their top-five penalty kill, playing nearly two minutes per game on the PK and 1:36 per contest on the power play. He won almost 60 percent of the faceoffs he took when shorthanded.

He follows a mixed martial arts training regimen in the offseason, so he's remarkably strong even though he's only 5-foot-10, 197 pounds. When Sobotka lays a hit, which he does often, the player he nails remembers it. He feels it for the rest of the game.

"He's really a powerful guy, way more powerful than people realize," Hitchcock told NHL.com earlier in the season. "He trains with those MMA people and the training that that sport does is all about explosiveness and power, stuff like that. He's really a physical guy."

Pang said Sobotka has the "perfect hockey body."

"I think pound for pound you'd be hard-pressed to find a stronger, tougher player in the entire League," Pang said. "He's got a lower center of gravity, stocky legs, a strong lower body. I've often said on the air that he weebles and he wobbles but he won't fall down. He doesn't embellish. He's very honorable."

Beyond his off-the-score sheet attributes, Sobotka is coming off the best regular season of his career. He posted career highs in points, plus-minus, and penalty minutes. He topped 100 shots on goal for the second time in his career.

The Blues win by checking and maintaining control the puck. Sobotka contributes in those areas with his strength, speed and prowess in the faceoff circle. St. Louis needs him as much as they need players like Backes, T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen.

"I think his calmness with the puck is really unheralded," Pang said. "He's very patient. He doesn't panic. You do see that panic from guys who aren't known as offensive players."

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Steen 68 33 29 17 62
T. Oshie 79 21 39 19 60
D. Backes 74 27 30 14 57
J. Schwartz 80 25 31 28 56
A. Pietrangelo 81 8 43 20 51
K. Shattenkirk 81 10 35 1 45
V. Tarasenko 64 21 22 20 43
D. Roy 75 9 28 -1 37
J. Bouwmeester 82 4 33 26 37
V. Sobotka 61 9 24 14 33
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
B. Elliott 18 6 2 .922 1.96
R. Miller 25 30 4 .918 2.64

 
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