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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 ANA 47 31 10 6 139 124 68
2 NSH 45 30 10 5 137 104 65
3 STL 46 29 13 4 148 111 62
4 CHI 47 30 15 2 148 108 62
5 WPG 48 26 14 8 135 117 60
6 SJS 48 25 17 6 131 132 56
7 VAN 45 26 16 3 124 114 55
8 CGY 47 25 19 3 136 125 53
9 LAK 47 20 15 12 129 126 52
10 COL 48 20 18 10 125 137 50
11 DAL 46 21 18 7 144 151 49
12 MIN 46 20 20 6 128 137 46
13 ARI 46 16 25 5 105 156 37
14 EDM 47 12 26 9 109 158 33

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
V. Tarasenko 46 24 23 23 47
A. Steen 44 15 25 8 40
K. Shattenkirk 46 8 31 17 39
J. Schwartz 39 16 21 15 37
D. Backes 45 16 17 5 33
J. Lehtera 45 9 21 16 30
T. Oshie 38 13 15 11 28
A. Pietrangelo 46 4 23 0 27
P. Stastny 38 9 16 5 25
P. Berglund 45 6 9 -1 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
B. Elliott 13 5 2 .930 1.86
J. Allen 13 5 2 .900 2.65

 
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