St. Louis Blues Win Despite Using Worst Line Imagineable

Mar 10, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Nate Thompson (44) checks St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera (12) during the first period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Nate Thompson (44) checks St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera (12) during the first period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues are the newest champions of Duck Hunt after a tough battle and some late heroics Friday night. But in the process, Mike Yeo showed us one of the worst line combinations Blues fans have seen in years.

Dmitrij Jaskin. Jori Lehtera. Magnus Paajarvi.

That’s an actual line the St. Louis Blues utilized in the contest against Anaheim last night. And while the Blues managed to pull out a win thanks to a surprising Joel Edmundson snipe, the minutes these three forwards saw were mostly ugly ones.

Maybe you’re thinking “Steven, it’s fine. The Blues won. It doesn’t matter.”

And sure, you’re somewhat right. The win streak is nice. But this lineup decision has me worried for a few reasons moving forward.

The St. Louis Blues clearly believe they are a playoff team now. With the win streak, the remaining schedule and the inconsistent play of Los Angeles, they have a pretty good case. Mike Yeo, however, had the audacity to run this line against another playoff team in the race. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Yeo runs it again once the postseason starts.

And this trio alone could shorten the Blues’ run. They all but proved it Friday night against the Anaheim Ducks.

In 37:31 of play, Lehtera, Jaskin and Paajarvi combined for a -5 rating and zero points. Anaheim’s first two goals were while Lehtera and Jaskin were on the ice. Paajarvi was off for one because Ryan Reaves hadn’t come off yet.

Now, I will also say that Paajarvi doesn’t worry me as much as the other two. He has been better in his latest stint with St. Louis. But, he still doesn’t have the kind of game where he can be the best player on a line for a good team.

As for Lehtera, the first goal against was a direct result of his horrible decision-making. He hit Corey Perry into Blues goalie Jake Allen. It gave the Ducks just enough time to beat Jake with a wrist shot before No. 34 could fully recover. There may have been some goaltender interference after but the NHL felt otherwise.

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Overall, this line was the biggest reason the Ducks hung around as long as they did and it just isn’t good enough to use against quality opponents. The other three lines were rolling but they won’t be good enough every night to make up for the deficit that a Lehtera, Jaskin, and Paajarvi line creates.

And those three forwards aren’t capable of making it up themselves. In a combined 691 career games, the trio has just 87 goals and 225 points. Yeah, it’s that bad. Every team in the playoffs will have a better “third line” than the St. Louis Blues if this sticks.

The worst part, in my opinion, is that the Blues choose to go with this combination over the alternatives they have, specifically Ivan Barbashev and Zach Sanford. I wrote about this earlier in the week and it is still frustrating that the organization’s top prospects are sitting in press boxes. The rookies could very easily provide more scoring than three under achievers.

The Blues say, however, that they prefer veteran experience. But I’m just not buying in if the experience comes from AHL-caliber veterans. How is that more valuable? Starting faster, more skilled players could be a huge for the team in the final weeks or (possibly) months.

Not doing so is detrimental to the team and it’s detrimental to player development moving forward. It’s a big deal.

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But, maybe there’s some kind of light at the end of the tunnel?

Jori Lehtera took a frozen puck to the face late in Friday’s game. There were a few drops of blood and he did not return. I doubt he is seriously injured but if No. 12 somehow misses time, it could provide an opportunity for one of the young coveted Blues.

I’ve been a Blues fan for 17 years. The Jaskin-Lehtera-Paajarvi line might be the worst line I’ve watched in a very, very long time. I hope Friday night’s production deters Mike Yeo from using them together in the future.