ST. LOUIS - Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Hull once said if Brett Hull and Adam Oates had played together longer than they did, Brett would have scored at least 300 more goals. He adds that one guy (Oates) would have been passing, one guy (Brett) would have been scoring and two guys would have been needed to fish all the pucks out of the net.
Easily the best one-two punch in Blues history, the Hull and Oates combo played two and a half seasons together. In 1989-90, Hull scored 72 goals and Oates racked up 79 assists. The next season, Hull scored a career-high 86 goals while Oates registered 90 assists, 41 of which were on goals from Hull.
“We had a connection,” Oates told the Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford in his book, 100 Things Blues Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. “He made me a better player. I hope I made him a better player, too.”
Eventually, a contract issue led to Oates being traded to Boston in 1992, but there was never any doubt about the magic the two had in their short time together in St. Louis.
Tonight, when the Blues take on the Boston Bruins at 7 p.m. (FSMW, KMOX), they’ll celebrate the Hull and Oates era with their final Heritage Night of the season.
And while the Blues will likely never have a one-two punch like Hull and Oates again, the club might be seeing their most well-balanced attack of the season.
Over the course of their five-game winning streak, the Blues have gotten 15 goals from 10 different goal scorers. Vladimir Tarasenko (3), Robby Fabbri (2), Troy Brouwer (2) and Kyle Brodziak (2) have scored multiple goals in that five-game stretch, while Jaden Schwartz, Carl Gunnarsson, Joel Edmundson, Colton Parayko, Patrik Berglund and David Backes have each lit the lamp once.
Even the guys who haven’t scored goals are contributing: Alexander Steen recorded two assists in his first game back from an upper-body injury, and Paul Stastny has dished out seven assists over the last five games.
“We’re starting to get some chemistry within our lineup and we’ve able to keep lines together,” defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “You see Paul Stastny’s line, I think that’s been our most successful line of the past eight or 10 games, then you have Jori (Lehtera), Vladi and Jaden (Schwartz) who know how to play with each other, and then we get ‘Steener' back to jump in on his line - it’s a lethal combination between all three. With the way our fourth line has been playing for us, they’re providing a tremendous amount of energy. We’ve had different goal scorers, but we’re starting to see everyone find themselves together up front.”
“It seems like one line always comes through for us. It’s different every time,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “You can’t shutdown three lines right now, and one line seems to get some gas in the tank and take advantage of it. What really allows us to score right now is we have three lines that can check and also can score. It’s a hard match for some teams when we get the advantage on home ice.”
Fabbri did not participate in Thursday’s practice, but he did skate before the team did this morning. He won’t play tonight, though - Magnus Paajarvi will take his spot and be in the lineup for the first time since March 16 against Edmonton.
“It’s pretty hard to crack a lineup when you let in one goal in five games,” Paajarvi said. “I’m just going to do my thing. I’ve been doing well before, so it shouldn’t be a problem now either.”
“With the way (Troy) Brouwer and Stastny play and the tempo that Fabbri brings, Magnus is the closest guy we’ve got to play at that tempo,” Hitchcock said. “He’s hungry right now, he really wants a chance to play. I think we’re going to get an A-game from him.”
Today’s morning skate was optional, but here are tonight’s projected lines:
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Patrik Berglund - Alexander Steen - David Backes
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Joel Edmundson - Alex Pietrangelo
Kevin Shattenkirk - Colton Parayko
Petteri Lindbohm - Robert Bortuzzo
The Bruins started March with a 5-0-2 record, but have lost six of their last seven games (1-6-0), including four of five on the road.
Boston is currently third in the Atlantic Division with 88 points, but is just one point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings with five games to go.
“If you turn down the volume (on the TV), it looks like they should win. How are they not scoring in their games?” asked Hitchcock. “The way (Claude Julien’s) team is playing, they’re hard to play against and they compete on the puck as good as anybody we’ve played against. The game that we had in Boston was one of the best-played hockey games by two teams all year, and we’re expecting the same from them again.”
The Blues beat the Bruins in the only previous meeting this season: 2-0 at TD Garden on Dec. 22.
With Tuesday’s 3-1 win vs. Colorado, the Blues eclipsed the 100-point mark for the third consecutive season and eighth time in franchise history.
Brian Elliott is 4-0-0 with a 0.25 goals-against average, a .989 save-percentage and three shutouts since returning from a lower-body injury. Elliott and Jake Allen have combined to make 166 saves on the last 167 shots against and now own the top save-percentage in the League at .921.
The Blues have not allowed a Bruins power-play goal in seven straight meetings, going 15-for-15. The last time Boston scored a power-play goal against the Blues was Nov. 23, 2009.
Tonight will be Ken Hitchcock’s 1,400th NHL game behind the bench, tying the late Pat Quinn for seventh on the all-time coaching list. “Because it’s Pat, it means a lot,” Hitchcock said. “We were great friends and he really gave me my start when I was coaching in junior.”
The first 15,000 fans at tonight’s game will receive a Hull & Oates canvas.