It’s been a Jaden Schwartz kind of playoffs for the St. Louis Blues.
The 26-year-old from Wilcox, Saskatchewan, has been holding it down for his team throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He leads the Blues with 13 points, including nine goals and four assists, and he keeps striking to make a difference at all the right moments.
In Monday’s Game Two against the San Jose Sharks, Schwartz was instrumental once more and scored the opening goal in the eventual 4-2 victory. St. Louis evened the series with the Sharks at a game apiece and now gets to return home with momentum in their back pocket.
And that has everything to do with Schwartz, who’s seen everything turn around for him.
Back in January, few saw Schwartz or the Blues in this position. By mid-December, he had just two goals and his club was wallowing well outside of a post-season berth. Even his agents could tell he was down in the dumps, how his shooting percentage was in the basement.
“His (Schwartz’s) shooting percentage was half his career norm,” agent Rand Simon said. “We talked about how it would eventually even out. Well, it never did in the regular season. But then came the playoffs.”
Indeed, Schwartz would finish the regular season with among his lowest point totals ever. Just 36 in 69 games, including only 11 goals. His shooting percentage when the dust settled was a career low six percent. In 2017-2018, Schwartz had 24 goals in 62 games and was shooting at 15.3 percent.
But in these playoffs – and sometimes in the playoffs in general – Schwartz is coming alive. His nine goals in 15 games ties him with San Jose’s Tomas Hertl for second in league scoring behind the Sharks’ Logan Couture. Schwartz has four more goals than St. Louis’ next leading scorer, Vladimir Tarasenko.
He’s done this before. Somewhat.
In 2015-2016, he managed 14 points in 20 playoff games. And in 2016-2017, he had nine points in 11 post-season outings. But this time around, his shooting percentage is a whopping 23.1 percent – just under double his career playoff average – and that net is a yawning cage.
That puts Schwartz well inside the Conn Smythe conversation and in charge of about a quarter of his team’s offence, which certainly gives San Jose a target as things head to the Gateway to the West. But it also gives Schwartz, Wilcox’s own, a sense of purpose and pride. And fun.
“It’s definitely the funnest time of the year,” Schwartz said. “I had some struggles earlier that I hadn’t really had before. Then once the playoffs started, I don’t know, I’ve embraced the games and had fun with it. I don’t really try to think too much about it.”
(Photo credit: NHL.com)