Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hochman: Schwartz, Blues Playing with a Purpose

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hochman: Schwartz, Blues Playing with a Purpose

Article excerpt

As soon as it was over, Jaden Schwartz twirled his left index finger like an ump signaling a homer, and for all intents and purposes, this was about as "walk-off homer" as you can get in hockey.

Schwartzie! The little guy is keeping the beleaguered Blues in the playoff race, scoring the game-tying goal and the game-winning goal -- in overtime -- to beat Boston on Wednesday.

His coach, Mike Yeo, made an apt description about the current Blues, with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jay Bouwmeester injured and Paul Stastny in Winnipeg: "We're not a pretty team right now and we can't be. If we try to play pretty hockey, then it's not going to end well. … There are going to be skilled plays … but there has to be a lot of grunt work in order to make those things happen."

Well, Schwartz is the Blues' chameleon -- more than any player on the roster, he's the guy who can muck it up and make something out of nothing … but then later unleash a gorgeous goal (or two). More than any player, Schwartz epitomized both styles in a game teammates called a "must-win."

"I played against him the last few years, but I didn't have the respect I have for him (now)," said first-year Blues forward Chris Thorburn from Wednesday's winning dressing room at Scottrade Center. "The guy, on the ice, is phenomenal. In tight spots, he's always coming up with pucks. For a smaller guy, he wins one-on-one battles. His speed, his skill. He really plays like he's 6-feet-4. And quick. And just makes people around him better. The chemistry with him, (Alexander) Steen and (Brayden) Schenn is awesome. And for people that don't know him, he's a guy you want around.

"He's just a special player."

The Blues' 2-1 win was, of course, their third consecutive overtime win, the first time that's happened in franchise history. And it's fueling them. And give them credit for making something, anything, out of a weird night at the rink. After regulation, the Blues had 19 shots on goal. That's it. After a slow first period, however, the Blues unleashed an avalanche of offense in the second -- with the caveat that little of it was accurate. They had 14 shots on goal after two periods and trailed 1-0.

"We've had that before in games where it seems like we have tons of shots, tons of opportunities -- and it's not going in," Schwartz said. "Maybe sometimes we get a little bit frustrated -- so we're trying not to do that, and (instead) still believing."

Belief in the process. Belief in the grind. Belief in the grinding down.

The Blues are finding ways to win when it matters most, as they claw for a playoff spot with nine games to go. The Blues, of late, believe in the Blues. That's no small thing.

"I think we're just back to believing in ourselves -- we're playing hard for each other and we learned from that little drought we went through," Schwartz said. …

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