When the St. Louis Blues have been on top of the NHL it has traditionally been a smothering defense that has put them there. Whether it was the Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis days, or the 2019 Stanley Cup winning team, defense has been the main identifying trait of their team.
This season it is all about the offense.
The Blues were decisive 8-3 winners against Nashville on Sunday evening, scoring a franchise record seven second-period goals, to run their current winning streak to nine games as they continue to emerge as a major contender in the Western Conference.
They are not only sliding under the radar as a contender, but their offense has been overshadowed by teams like Florida, Colorado, and Toronto so far this season. But make no mistake, this Blues team is right there with the other elites in the league when it comes to putting the puck in the net.
After Sunday’s eight goal outburst the Blues are fourth in the NHL in total goals per game (3.76), have the No. 2 power play unit in the league, and are tied for fifth in the league in goals per 60 minutes during 5-on-5 play. They are currently averaging 0.78 more goals per game than they did a year ago, while the 3.76 mark would be the fifth-highest mark in franchise history, trailing only a handful of Blues teams from the 1980s. Given the era, it is not unfair to say the Blues have never really had a team quite like this.
Along with their nine-game winning streak, the Blues are also on a 12-game point streak (11-0-1) that has seen them score at least four goals in each of those 12 games, including four six-goals games (including three in a row after Sunday’s eight-goal game).
As of Sunday they already have 10 players with at least 10 goals, 11 players with at least 40 points, and seven players with at least 20 goals, while Robert Thomas (18) and Ryan O'Reilly (17) could join that group before the end of the regular season.
There are three main developments that have helped the Blues take such a significant step offensively this season.
1. Their two best young players have had breakout seasons
That would be Jordan Kyrou and Thomas, both of whom have had career years and significant breakout seasons offensively. Thomas has developed into one of the best playmakers in the NHL and is the Blues’ second-leading scorer for the season with 73 points in only 66 games. His 1.74 primary assists per 60 minutes is the third best mark in the league, trailing only Johnny Gaudreau and Jonathan Huberdeau.
Kyrou is also averaging more than a point per game this season and is scoring at a 30-goal, 75-point pace per 82 games, a significant leap forward from what we saw from him a year ago.
They are 22 and 23 respectively and just now starting to enter their prime years.
2. They made two great offseason additions
Both have been significant upgrades.
Saad has always been a strong possession-driving forward with 20-25 goal finishing ability, and everything has clicked for him this season in St. Louis to put together one of his best offseason seasons in years. He is never going to be a player that you build around, but he is an ideal complementary piece as a secondary scoring.
Buchnevich has been the truly significant addition, coming over in a trade in exchange for a draft pick and Samuel Blais. It has been a laughably one-sided deal for the Blues. Buchnevich was always a solid top-six winger for the Rangers but never seemed to be fully appreciated (or trusted) in his role. The Blues pounced on him when he was available this offseason and have been rewarded with a breakout season that has seen him average a point per game and be on track for a 30-goal season.
3. Vladimir Tarasenko is back
Not only is he back as a top scorer, the Blues are lucky he is back at all. There was a significant stretch this offseason where it seemed like a trade was inevitable, while the Blues left him completely unprotected in the expansion draft and dared the Seattle Kraken to take him.
In the end, no trade happened and the Kraken selected defenseman Vince Dunn instead.
That has all been a victory for the Blues. Tarasenko is back as an elite offensive producer and is pacing the Blues this season in goals and points, while he has been especially hot over the past few weeks. After two injury plagued seasons that robbed him of playing time (only 42 total games, regular season and playoffs) and zapped his production (just nine total goals) Tarasenko is having one of the best offensive seasons of his career and leading the team’s offensive charge.
Now that Ville Husso seems to have taken control of the starting goalie job, and playing extremely well, the Blues are looking like a team that has a chance to make some noise in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.