As the season moved along Chris Stewart’s ice time dipped. He never seemed to find his grove offensively and now he’ll watch as his team looks to even up their playoff series with San Jose.
Here’s a guy who’s contributed solid numbers his entire career and suddenly hit a wall this season. His confidence took a hit early and he’s never recovered.
It’s without a doubt right there with Brian Elliott as the biggest surprise this season. For different reasons obviously.
You heard rumblings all year about his conditioning not being up to par but these are issues that seem to pop up when a player is underperforming.
The Blues coaching staff had all season to send a message to Stewart yet they continued to put him in the lineup. It’s a little odd they wait until the second game of the playoffs to get his attention.
Could they have done this sooner? Would that have possibly corrected the issues preventing him from playing at the level he has most of his career?
It’s a tough call and Ken Hitchcock has to do what’s best for his hockey club. He can’t afford to have a third line that wants to play like a first line. The Blues need tenacity, energy, and grit from their third line players. It comes down to establishing a battle level and the Blues need this from their bottom six forwards.
Players like Backes and Oshie bring a third line mentality to a first line assignment. It usually doesn’t work this way.
Stewart and Arnott are used to being top six players throughout their career but that isn’t the role being asked of them in the playoffs. It comes down to adjusting your game to help round out the lineup.
Hitchcock said Saturday morning he needs more from Chris Stewart. He didn’t come out and say it but he also needs more from Jason Arnott.
He wants more second and third effort on the puck from these guys and this is the result when your play doesn’t meet expectations.
I still wonder if the message should have been sent earlier in the year.
Now you have a player who’s scored 71 goals over the last three seasons sitting in the pressbox. He’s too good of a player to be a healthy scratch in the playoffs, the Blues hope this is what gets him going.
Stewarts admits to not playing good enough. He’s hopeful he gets a chance to redeem himself in the series.
Jason Arnott can thank his ability to play the power play for not being in the same situation as Stewart. His veteran status has probably earned him a longer leash to get his game together.
There comes a time in your career when you have to re-invent yourself to still be an effective player. Arnott has probably reached that point. He can still shoot the puck and get you a goal here and there but the Blues are asking for more. People focus on his skating but it’s more than that, you have to earn success this time of year. The harder you work the better opportunity you’ll have to make a difference.
Ryan Reaves, who didn’t see a shift in either overtime Thursday, will sit this one out. B.J. Crombeen and Matt D’Agostini will see their first action of the playoffs. They’ll join Scott Nichol on the fourth line. Jamie Langenbrunner moves up to play with Arnott and Vlad Sobotka, a role Langenbrunner is much more comfortable playing in.
Hitchcock sees Crombeen and Reaves as similar players but Crombeen is probably trusted to play deeper into games. He’ll make smarter decisions with and without the puck and this is an area Reaves still needs to improve. I thought Reaves did have an impact in Game 1 with limited ice.
Several San Jose players told me they still expect the Blues to play hard physically even without the presence of Reaves. The Sharks lineup is expected to stay the same.
Coco Needs to Be Crisp…
Carlo Colaiacovo replaces Kent Huskins and will play with Alex Pietrangelo.
Pietrangelo needs the puck, the Blue are better when the puck is on his stick and this didn’t occur enough on Thursday. The Blues need Colaiacovo to play well period.
This is not the time of year to spend time figuring out what your lineup should look like.
Backes Vs. Thornton…
This is one of the stiffer tests both players will see throughout the NHL.
The winner of this matchup could win the series. Canceling each other out doesn’t do either team much good if other lines aren’t picking up the slack offensively. Both sides are focused on finding ways to be on the plus side of the matchup. Spending quality time in the offensive zone will only frustrate Thornton and company.
Thornton has worked hard over the last few years to improve his ability play inside his own end.
I wouldn’t be surprised if David Perron has a very strong game in Game 2.
I probably blamed Perron a little too much on the Sharks tying goal last Thursday. He probably could have stayed with Andrew Desjardins longer but Pietrangelo needed better stick position on the play.
Perron and Hitchcock had a good conversation Friday morning to discuss among other things the slashing penalty he took on Brent Burns.
More to come,
The Latest Truth
Post about tonight's Isles-Blues game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Berglund Says He's Full of Confidence
Post about tonight's Blues-Kings game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Blues Look to Rebound in LA
Post about this afternoon's Blues-Sharks game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Post about tonight's Blues-Avs game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more
Post about tonight's Wild/Blues game with your fellow TrueHockey.com fans. Read more