Jaden Schwartz celebrates after scoring a goal in the first round of the NHL Playoffs. (Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports photo)
Welcome to Blue Collar Weekly Playoff Edition where I choose one lucky Blues hockey player to wear the Blue Collar of greatness. This week I based my selection on players’ performances in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs vs. the Winnipeg Jets. There were many good players for the Blues.
This week, the “Blue-collar” goes to….
Let’s take a look at some of his key moments in the six-game series in which the Blues were triumphant.
- Game 5: Its the 3rd period with only 24.4 seconds left in the game located right behind Connor Hellebuyck. Jaden Schwartz stops Winnipeg’s 6′ 3″ 203 lb defenseman, Jacob Trouba from clearing the puck out of the zone. Eventually, the puck is shoved loose by the Jets Mark Scheiflle around the right wing to Bozak who then sees Schwartz camped out in front of the net, just waiting. With only 15 seconds left Bozak rifles an elevated pass right on to the stick of Schwartz scoring the series-changing goal. Blues won the game 3-2, and that would send the Blues back home for a Game 6 and the chance to win the series.
- Game 6: Schwartz scored 23 seconds into the 1st period and put the Blues up 1-0 early. Then at 12:36 of the 2nd period, Jaden scored a wrist shot from the left circle for his 2nd goal on the powerplay putting the Blues up 2-0. He completed his natural hat trick at 3:55 of the 3rd period to give the Blues a 3-0 lead. The Blues went on to win the game 3-2 and sent the Jets flying back home to end the series.
Jaden Schwartz picks up the hat trick.
3-0 STL pic.twitter.com/PYQRhC7d0r
— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) April 21, 2019
Here’s what Schwartz had to say about Game 6 (courtesy of Lou Korac)
“It’s nice definitely to help out and step up,” Schwartz said. “We played a great team game today. We didn’t give them much; we worked our butts off. Our [defensemen] were great. I thought our forwards back-checked hard and frustrated them. That was the biggest game of the year for us. We played aggressively, and we were on our toes.”
Hard Work Pays Off
The 26-year-old had struggled statistically in the regular season with only 11 goals 25 assists for 36 points. But he did provide a steady physical presence on the forecheck. He had 61 hits, which was the 2nd most in his career. (had 71 hits back in 2016-17)
Even though he had a career-high in TSA (total shots attempted) with 321. His 6% shot percentage was not even close to normal for him. He has a career 12.3 shot percentage.
I want to think a lot of his struggles stemmed more from the line combinations. When David Perron got injured it changed the line-up. All of a sudden you have Jaden’s go-to guy Brayden Schenn on a different line and on the wing.
But surprisingly the Blues still went 16-5-2 without Perron(from 1/19-3/14) and had that franchise record 11 games winning streak.
The Blues went from a record of 20-21-5 to a 36-26-7 record when Perron returned. Schwartz worked harder in that time frame and produced 9 points in 24 games. He had 27 hits in that 24 game span. I genuinely believe he found his strong suit, which is his tenacious ability to cycle in the corners and get back in front of the net. He went back to the basics, and it’s paying off now in the playoffs.
He has played six playoff games this year and has 5 points (4 goals one assist) with a +4 plus/minus. Three of those four goals are even-strength goals. That is ranked 1st on the team in the playoffs this year. He has scored two game-winners and the Blues last four goals in the previous two games against the Jets. He also had seven hits in the series.
Schwartz’s shooting percentage is 26.7 % which is 1st on team with players that have ten shots or more in the playoffs.
Schwartz Career Playoff Statistics:
- 14 goals in 55 playoff games
- 21 assists in the postseason
- 35 total points
- 101 hits
- 47 blocked shots
- 11.0 shot percentage
Schwartz Career Playoff stats against the Dallas Stars
- 4 points in 7 games (no goals, four assists)
- 11 hits
- Eight blocked shots
- Plus/Minus is Even
I think Jaden Schwartz will continue his strong play. The reason I believe this is because Craig Berube made a considerable line change in Game 5 that changed the outcome of the series. He bumped Perron up to the 1st line with OReilly and Tarasenko.
That, in turn, sent Brayden Schenn into his natural position at center. Schenn had been physical in the series from the drop of the puck. But he lacked that speed and scoring while playing on the wing. So putting him into the center position again really changed the dynamics of the 2nd line. He already has excellent chemistry with Schwartz, so it was inevitable that things would start to click for them.
This next series with Dallas will be a massive chance for the Blues to elevate their game even more. Good luck to our Blue-Collar winner Jaden Schwartz and enjoy every minute of it. I leave you with a quote from Herb Brooks.
“Great moments are born from great opportunities.”