St. Louis Blues Top 3 Lines Give Them the Best Chance to Win
The St. Louis Blues have rattled off three straight wins after a tough loss against the Colorado Avalanche. They beat the Nashville Predators in boring fashion and both Alberta teams on the road to begin their trip through Western Canada. This week, they got better with each game, especially after a rough start against the Edmonton Oilers.
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The biggest reason for the Blues’ recent success is their lineup construction. Without Pavel Buchnevich, there was a major hole in the lineup. His return has sparked the offense in their three-game winning streak.
The Blues’ First Line is All About Hard Work
The line of Ryan O’Reilly, Brandon Saad, and Josh Leivo has been effective for a few weeks now. They are hard-working players with enough skill to produce offensively. Leivo’s season has been surprisingly solid, he’s earned his spot in the lineup. He’s one of five players on the Blues roster with positive plus/minus and double-digit games played – Calle Rosen, Niko Mikkola, Pavel Buchnevich, Ivan Barbashev. He has earned his spot in this lineup, so he won’t be going away anytime soon.
As for O’Reilly and Saad, they are both improving after slow starts to the season. The unknown going into the season was how O’Reilly would be without David Perron, and he hasn’t been great. He was bad to start the season, but he’s clearly gotten more comfortable with Saad and especially Leivo. He had two goals in the first 12 games of the season, which was the worst start to a campaign in his career. Since then, he has 13 points in 19 games, including seven goals. His shooting percentage through the first 12 games was 7.1, while it is at 22.6 in the last 19 games. Saad hasn’t been healthy for parts of this season, but he’s been solid recently.
His two-way game has ramped up from last season, while his goal-scoring has taken a hit. He’s got just seven goals in 24 games this season, down from 11 goals through 24 games in 2021-22. I’ll credit this to injuries and a lack of consistency from the entire team. This line competes hard and plays in all three zones.
The Blues’ Second Line is Heavy and Skilled
The presence of Buchnevich with Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko is enormous. He is the Blues’ most valuable player this season. Their offensive attack looks different, in a bad way, when he is injured. Schenn has been one of the most consistent players for the Blues this season. He has 24 points in 31 games, despite moving all over the lineup. Since the return of Buchnevich, this line has been humming with a total of two goals and five assists in the last two games between the three of them. All three of them find ways to score much-needed goals.
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They have a perfect mix of heaviness and skill to make it difficult for opposing teams to defend. Even with Tarasenko struggling to score, they’ve been super effective. A lot of their effectiveness is thanks to Buchnevich being one of the best scorers on the roster. If the Blues need to get physical or score a goal, this is a line that head coach Craig Berube can use in those situations.
The Blues’ Third Line is Speed and Power
It’s safe to say that Berube should not separate Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou again. They have been incredible over the last week. I don’t know if it matters who is playing alongside them, but Ivan Barbashev has done a good job thus far. The expectations for Thomas and Kyrou have been enormous this season on the heels of their eight-year extensions that start in 2023-24. It didn’t look great for Kyrou through the first month of the season, but he’s taken his game to another level over the last month.
In his last 17 games, Kyrou has scored nine goals and 23 points. When he’s confident, he’s one of the most electrifying scorers in recent Blues history. In the last two seasons alone, he has 103 points in 104 games and an incredible 13.7 shooting percentage. I believe his contract will age well, as he’s only 24 years old and has blossomed into a star. I believe the same for Thomas, who has been the Blues’ most important forward outside of Buchnevich this season. The thing that helps the Thomas and Kyrou contracts is the inevitable rise of the cap.
In the last two seasons, Thomas has had 105 points in 102 games. His 78 assists rank 18th in the NHL amongst a host of other elite players. On top of those stats over the last two seasons, he’s also won 51.2 percent of his faceoffs and has 90 takeaways. His faceoff prowess has been especially prevalent this season at 54.2 percent. If the Blues do trade O’Reilly, I’d say that Thomas instantly becomes the most important center within the franchise. It’s been a slow offensive season for Barbashev, but he complements Thomas and Kyrou well. Barbashev is finding his form on this line, and that is much needed.
The back-to-back wins in Alberta may have been the start of a turnaround for the Blues in 2022-23. If that is the case, the forward lines are the biggest reason why. The fourth line deserves credit as Alexey Toropchenko and Noel Acciari play well. The Blues must keep these lines intact if they want to continue this winning streak.
Ethan Carter has been writing at The Hockey Writers for over three years now. He also co-hosts The Blue Note Podcast for the Bleav Network, which covers the Blues and the NHL multiple times per week.