Ivan Barbashev’s phenomenal season leads the Blues’ powerful 4th line.
The St. Louis Blues 4th line, as it’s currently constituted, has a combined 29 goals and 39 assists, for a point total of 68.
Let’s compare that to the 2015-16 season, in which the line of Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak and Ryan Reaves had a combined goal total of 16 and point total of 29.
As we know, the current 4th line, which is Steen, Barbashev and Sanford, haven’t played on the same line all season. Currently on the roster are 3 forwards that have spent time on the 4th line: Sammy Blais, Robby Fabbri, and Mackenzie MacEachern. So has Maroon. But that’s not the point. The point is the Blues have gotten more offense this year from the bottom 6 forwards than they have in years past.
With just a handful of games left to play, the Blues have 13 players with 8 goals or more. Let’s compare that to the past 4 seasons: Going back there 9, 12, 11, and 10 players with 8 or more. This year there are 16 players with at least 15 points. That’s more than any of the past 4 years, too.
I think we can attribute this balanced offense to a couple of factors. First, the offseason acquisitions. It’s wondrous what having a top line center like Ryan O’Reilly has done to the offense and forward lines as a whole. It just makes it so much easier to slot in the other centers and their wingers. The Blues went a long, long, long time without a bona fide top line pivot man. Backes wasn’t really one. Doug Weight wasn’t one. Brayden Schenn, respectfully, isn’t one. When a team finally gets one, it makes a world of difference. And, adding Perron, Bozak and Maroon pushed other players down the lineup, making the lineup more skilled all around.
Secondly, the Blues haven’t relied overly on rookies or young players that haven’t come into their own, as they have in years past. Thomas is the only rookie to have significant playing time, and he’s played well. He seems to be on his way to a productive NHL career, unlike, say, Tage Thompson. And the Blues haven’t had to plug in the likes of Magnus Paajarvi, Nail Yakupov or Dmitrij Jaskin, all young-ish players that can’t put it all together. What they do have is young-ish players who are putting it all together: Ivan Barbashev, Zach Sanford, and Oskar Sundqvist. That trio is a big reason the Blues’ offense is so potent, up and down.
With all lines producing these days, the Blues are standing on the edge of a potentially dangerous, deep playoff run.
This feels so good to root for the team these days.