The NHL regular season is about halfway completed, and the Blues have hardly performed to the expectations of many. After last year’s success, many predicted them to place near the top of the Western Conference this year; thus far, they find themselves fluctuating in the standings near the edge of the playoff precipice. Despite this inconsistency, bright spots certainly exist. One major positive has been the play of Chris Stewart.
After arriving in an unexpected trade that sent former first-overall draft pick Erik Johnson to Colorado, Stewart’s fifteen goals in 26 games nearly crowned the Blues undisputed winners of the exchange (even ignoring the other incoming piece, the impressive Kevin Shattenkirk). The subsequent year, however, Stewart was nothing short of dire- he scored the same fifteen goals, albeit in 76 games. He looked sluggish, apathetic, and ineffectual on the attack, rarely creating or finishing chances. This did not go unnoticed, and some suggested his time in St. Louis might be nearing its end.
A year on, the anger many had for Stewart’s demeanor and offensive impotence has more than subsided. Stewart reported to the Blues after the lockout having lost over twenty pounds. On the ice, he looks energetic and influential. Especially with the injuries to Alex Steen, Andy McDonald, and Vladimir Tarasenko, his presence on the Blues’ attack has been invaluable. Stewart has scored eleven goals and twelve assists through 26 games (the same amount of points as in the 26 games he played in his first year with the Blues). He has even fought several times this year (in one instance upsetting Blackhawks heavyweight and St. Charles native Brandon Bollig).
Stewart has played like a man with a new sense of his abilities on the ice. The word “apathetic” could in no way be used to describe his play. The difference between his comportment between last season and this one is night and day. With him firing on all cylinders, continued success from players such as Patrik Berglund and David Perron, and the foreseeable returns of Tarasenko, McDonald, and Steen, the Blues offense should have no problems scoring goals henceforth.