BLUES SCOUTING REPORT

KEY PLAYERS

 

Vladimir Tarasenko, RW

 

Can shoot from anywhere, the bona fide superstar tied for fourth in the NHL with 39 goals and ranked 10th with 75 points to become the first Blue since Brett Hull (1995-98) to record 70 points in three consecutive seasons. Since 2014-15, including the playoffs, Tarasenko is second in the NHL with 131 goals and first with 99 even-strength goals. In a playoff series loss to the Wild in six games in 2015, Tarasenko scored six times.

 

Alex Pietrangelo, D

 

Since Kevin Shattenkirk was traded Feb. 27, the Blues’ captain ranked second among all NHL defensemen with 18 points. He ranked fourth in ice time per game (26 minutes, 35 seconds) in that span and had eight of his 19 power-play points since the trade.

 

Jake Allen, G

 

Under Ken Hitchcock, Allen was the worst No. 1 goalie in the NHL with an .895 save percentage and 2.87 goals-against average. Under Mike Yeo since Feb. 1, Allen had a league-best 1.85 goals-against average and .938 save percentage and won 11 of his final 15 games (26 goals allowed). He allowed two goals or fewer in 17 of his final 25 starts.

MUST STEP UP

 

Jaden Schwartz, LW

 

The man with Zach Parise-type effort and exceptional skill had 23 points in his final 28 games and scored twice against Minnesota in a Nov. 26 game.

X-FACTOR

 

Vladimir Sobotka, LW/C

 

After a contract dispute landed him in the Kontinental Hockey League the past three years, Sobotka — like a trade deadline pickup — returned to St. Louis last week and scored in his first game Sunday. Scrappy, skilled (102 points in 138 KHL games) and won 61.9 percent of his faceoffs (second in the NHL) in 2013-14.

BREAKING IT DOWN

 

Offense

 

Other than Tarasenko, only Patrik Berglund topped 20 goals and only Schwartz and Alex Steen topped 50 points. Steen (22 points in 31 games) and David Perron (nine goals, 19 points in 27 games) enjoy facing the Wild, as does Tarasenko (eight goals, 15 points in 18 regular-season games). They ranked 13th in the NHL with 2.91 goals per game since Feb. 1.

 

Defense

 

Since Yeo took over, no team in the NHL was better defensively (league-low 1.88 goals allowed per game). The Blues’ blue line is a strength, and the Blues changed from man-to-man to zone in their own end after Hitchcock was fired. They deploy a defensive-zone system now that’s similar to the one used when Yeo and assistant coach Rick Wilson were in Minnesota.

 

Goaltending

 

Since Yeo took over, no team in the NHL has a higher save percentage (.937). Yeo credits assistant GM and Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur, who assumed the goalie coach duties and identified a number of flaws in Allen’s game. He said Allen enters every game confident and focused because Brodeur simply can recognize why goals went in.

 

Special teams

 

Since Yeo took over, no team in the NHL had a better penalty kill (88.8 percent). The power play was middle of the pack at 19.8 percent, but Tarasenko ranks 16th in the NHL since 2013-14 with 34 power-play goals.

PROJECTED LINEUP

 

Forward lines: Jaden Schwartz-Ivan Barbashev-Vladimir Tarasenko; Magnus Paajarvi-Patrik Berglund-David Perron; Vladimir Sobotka-Jori Lehtera-Alex Steen; Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves.

 

Defense pairs: Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo; Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko; Carl Gunnarsson-Jordan Schmaltz.

 

Goalies: Jake Allen, Carter Hutton.

 

Spares: RW Dmitrij Jaskin, D Chris Butler; LW Zach Sanford.

 

Injuries: C Robby Fabbri (knee) is out. C Paul Stastny (lower body), RW Nail Yakupov (undisclosed) and D Robert Bortuzzo (upper body) could return in the series.