Backes-Oshie-Steen line playing ‘terrific’ for red-hot Blues

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The St. Louis Blues are 6-0-1 in their last seven and have scored an impressive 33 goals over that stretch. A big reason for the offensive output? The play of the club’s top line, featuring T.J. Oshie, Alex Steen and team captain David Backes.

“They’re a terrific line when they play predictable to each other,” Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said, per the Post-Dispatch. “The look faster when they play that way, they are faster, and you’ve got to have a real disciplined group of five to play against them because they’re willing to work for that one good chance and not give you very much in the meantime.

“My feeling is, with their work ethic, if they stay with it, it’s going to turn out fine.”

Combined, the trio has scored 49 points since being reunited 11 games ago. Steen is currently on a nine-game point streak, Backes has seven goals in his last six and Oshie 12 points in eight games in January. What’s frightening about this is none of them sit atop the Blues’ scoring board; the top two spots belong to Vladimir Tarasenko and Kevin Shattenkirk.

So it comes as no surprise, then, to see St. Louis sitting second in the NHL with 3.1 goals per game.

The Blues also boast the NHL’s top power play, something we wrote about last week. That, along with the recent offensive surge, are two things St. Louis will need to carry over to the postseason in order to avoid another early exit; against Chicago last spring, the Blues could only muster five goals over the final four games of their opening-round loss and their power play finished a woeful 2-for-29 for the series.

Part of avoiding a repeat will be the continued success between Backes, Steen and Oshie — a unit the captain hopes Hitchcock will keep in place.

“I think he realizes when we’re playing well, when we’re doing all the little things, it’s leading by example,” Backes explained. “The rest of the other guys seem to follow.”

Sharks’ McLellan: ‘We have to get better in a lot of areas’


Just five days after losing 7-2 on home ice to the Blues, the San Jose Sharks were spanked by the same score Thursday night in St. Louis.

Alex Steen, Jay Bouwmeester and Paul Stastny gave the Blues a 3-1 lead after one period.

Jori Lehtera restored the two-goal lead after Melker Karlsson had pulled the Sharks to within one and T.J. Oshie made it 5-2 after 40 minutes.

Patrik Berglund and David Backes scored third period goals while Brian Elliott made 24 saves for the win.

“For us, the two games against St. Louis give us an indication of where we’re at as a club, and where we need to go,” Sharks’ coach Todd McLellan said post-game. “There’s some high-end players on our team that really have to pick it up, and there’s also some role players that have to pick it up.

“We all have to grow as a group, and we have to get better in a lot of areas if we expect to compete against teams like St. Louis. Right now, it would be hard to find a team better than that.”

Logan Couture had the Sharks other goal while Antti Niemi made 16 saves on 21 shots before being replaced by Alex Stalock.

“You can sit here and make every single excuse in the book, but to lose 7-2 is unacceptable with this team that we have,” Couture said. “We just got beat, plain and simple, again, by that team.

“We’re better than what we’ve shown. To go out and play that team two games and get spanked like that … we haven’t been good in front of our goalies against these guys.”

Backes scores four as Blues blank Coyotes


David Backes had his second career four goal game and Brian Elliott made 23 saves for his 18th shutout with the Blues as St. Louis blanked Arizona 6-0 on Tuesday night.

Paul Stastny had the other goal for the Blues. He added an assist on Backes’ first of the night for a two-point night.

T.J. Oshie had assists on three of Backes’ four goals while Alex Steen and Patrik Berglund each had two assists.

Mike Smith made 33 saves in the loss.

For his solid performance Tuesday, Backes was awarded the team’s work boots.

Video: Coyotes’ Vermette takes a puck to the face

Coyotes forward Antoine Vermette took a pass from Blues’ forward Alex Steen near the mouth area and had to leave briefly for repairs.

He did return later in the period.

Arizona is already without Martin Hanzal with what the team is calling an upper body injury.

St. Louis will get Stastny back tonight versus Devils

Not only are the St. Louis Blues riding a six-game winning streak, they’ll get one of their top players, Paul Stastny, back tonight at home versus New Jersey.

Stastny (shoulder) has missed the Blues’ last eight games. Against the Devils, he’ll reportedly skate on a line between wingers Alex Steen and Joakim Lindstrom.

“I hope we stay to the same structure and he’s going to add to the mix,” said coach Ken Hitchcock, per Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch.

The Blues (8-3-1) got off to a shaky start to the season, but have not lost since a “wake-up call” performance versus Vancouver on Oct. 23.