reliable producer for years now but might be approaching

 The St. Louis Blues are 12 3 1 and sit atop the Central Division. Are they for real? Depends on your concept of reality, man.

They re not this good. With a PDO of 103.32, the Blues are bound to
have some level of regression. They re averaging 3.27 goals per game, up
from 2.84 last season. They re probably facing a course correction on
the defensive side, where their expected goals against is a minuscule
1.88 per 60 minutes at 5 on 5, down from their already impressive 1.97
last season. Plus,
they re living off the spark of their top line of Vladimir Tarasenko,
Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz, which has produced 37 percent of the
team s total goals this season.

That the Blues have accomplished this despite some critical early
season injuries including to Robby Fabbri, who has been done for the
season since training camp is nothing short of remarkable and should be
lauded no matter how and when this torrid start cools off. Which brings
us back to the concept of reality The Blues are, without question, a
playoff team, and, without question, a team that will challenge for the
division lead. I just don t know if this early season juggernaut is what
we end up seeing in the playoffs although I imagine that goalie Jake
Allen wouldn t mind it if this offense actually showed up in the
postseason, unlike last spring, when the Blues averaged just 2.00 goals
per game.

There s more to the Blues success than scorer Vladimir Tarasenko. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Emily Kaplan Last week, I designated the Blues as the best team
nobody was talking about, so my stance is clear Take these guys
seriously. They have resolve, and their story of how they got here is
pretty good too.

Right before their game against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night,
the Blues public relations staff sent out an email announcing that
Fabbri had undergone successful surgery on his left knee. It was a
timely reminder that for all of the success the Blues have enjoyed they
have an NHL best 25 points through 16 games it wasn t supposed to be
this way. I ll flash back to September, in training camp, when Fabbri s
season ending injury was first announced. I was visiting the Pittsburgh
Penguins training camp around that time and ended up hanging at the
practice facility all day to watch a USHL tournament. A bunch of NHL
scouts were there, and in the breaks between games, I asked about the
significance of Fabbri s injury. I remember one scout said, Yes, it s a
problem. But he noted just how many injuries the Blues were working
through. That s the problem, he said. Indeed, fellow top six forward
Alexander Steen ended up missing the first six games. Patrik Berglund is
still rehabbing from shoulder surgery, while defenseman Jay Bouwmeester
experiences lingering effects from his broken ankle. Zach Sanford is
out indefinitely. So, shortly after the Fabbri injury, Blues GM Doug
Armstrong announced that the team was exploring signing Jaromir Jagr,
essentially because they were desperate for forward depth. It obviously
didn t happen, but when you have a team considering all options that
late in training camp, you know things are dire.

I compare that backdrop to the product we re seeing now, and it s
hard to ignore This team has mettle. And this has nothing to do with
stats or fancy stats, but teams with mettle tend to make it far into

Which early trends will stick? Bruins rookie Charlie McAvoy is
sticking it to opposing forwards as the NHL s next elite D man, Flyers
captain Claude Giroux is sticking with his new position and the Kings
are sticking around the top of the standings.

Albert Michnac Best player in the world of the week

When picking the latest best player from the last seven days, it
came down to one major factor If you score two hat tricks that sandwich a
two goal performance, you re pretty much a lock. But don t sleep on the
16 points in three games kid!

Chris Peters I tend to agree with Greg on this one, especially given
the numbers he cited. I don t think there s any question that the Blues
are a really good team. That said, you can t have a start this hot
without Scottie Upshall Jersey
having a little good fortune, and it s hard to make that last for a
full season. But this is a team with a good amount of talent up and down
the lineup, with their top players playing at a high level, which is
making a huge difference.

Schwartz has been out of his mind to start the season. In 16 games,
he has 21 points, including nine goals. The talented winger has scored
on 24.3 percent of his shots. With a career shooting percentage of 13.9,
we should see his scoring cool over the course of the longer season,
but he s still on his way to a career year. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo
is kind of doing the same thing, averaging nearly a point per game with
some help from a higher shooting percentage. Then there s Vladimir
Tarasenko, who has been a reliable producer for years now but might be
approaching another level.

Those three players might not produce at the levels they re
producing at now for the entire season, but they might not have to. St.
Louis is getting some decent secondary scoring, particularly from Paul
Stastny and Vladimir Sobotka. The Blues are also playing in a Western
Conference that is up for grabs. Aside from the Los Angeles Kings, no
team has really established itself as a force to be reckoned with. So
even if the Blues taper off some, they re positioning themselves well
for when we get closer to playoff time.
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