In the Blues’ home opener back in October (which I watched with my wife at a local Buffalo Wild Wings, decked out in team gear), the third line was comprised of Patrik Berglund centering Nail Yakupov and Magnus Paajarvi. It was a spectacular debut for the line, as Yakupov scored a goal (his first of just 3 this year), and Paajarvi also scored (his only goal before being demoted, then injured).
That night was pretty much the line’s only moment of glory. Berglund went into a long funk, as is his custom. Yakupov was benched quickly in favor of Dmitrij Jaskin, who’s fallen a long way from his promising rookie season in which he scored 13 goals. He has only 1 this year. So for a long stretch of the season’s first half, the 3rd line was a rarely-producing group of Berglund, Jaskin, Rattie, Yakupov, and sometimes Jori Lehtera.
Then a bunch of things happened. Hitch was fired; Fabbri got hurt; and Shattenkirk was traded. All those events provided an opportunity for a new third line to form, and so far, flourish. Paajarvi has 4 goals since being put into the lineup as a regular. Stretch his numbers over a full 82 games, and he’d be on pace for 20+ goals. He’s the player now the Blues hoped they were getting when they traded Perron for him and a pick.
Barbashev has been given more ice time and recently, due to the Lehtera minor injury, a promotion to the 3rd line. He and Paajarvi are showing some chemistry, and both have more play-making ability than Lehtera. I think that’s quite obvious.
The Blues will have a 3rd line decision to make for next season. The Las Vegas expansion draft complicates thing. We don’t know who the Blues will protect. Heck, the Blues may not yet know who they’ll protect. But this is what I’m thinking: If perchance, Lehtera gets plucked, that would free up the Blues to assemble lines as follows:
LW J. Schwartz C P. Stastny RW V. Tarasenko
LW R. Fabbri C P. Berglund RW D. Perron
LW A. Steen C I. Barbashev RW M. Paajarvi
LW S. Upshall C K. Brodziak RW R. Reaves
Yes, this means Upshall would be re-signed. I really like the look of these lines, as I think they distribute scoring talent across 3 lines in a way the Blues haven’t really had this year. I certainly hope they can acquire a top centerman (John Tavares, anyone?), but if they can’t, those lines can get the job done. I put Steen on the 3rd line because he gives a veteran presence to it, and his production level isn’t worthy of top line minutes.
So what do you think? I haven’t even mentioned Zach Sanford. He had a sweet goal in the win over the Sharks. I’m enjoying watching him, Barbashev and Paajarvi down the stretch. All three are promising young players that can help the team now, and hopefully in the future.
Thanks for reading.