ST. LOUIS -- According to Patrik Berglund, nothing has changed since his return from the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The physical characteristics are certainly the same: He's still a left-handed shooter, he still wears No. 21 and he still plays for the St. Louis Blues.
What has changed is Berglund's name popping up more often on the stat sheet at the end of the night. More often bodes well for these Blues.
Berglund has 14 goals this season -- not an eye-popping number considering the Blues (47-16-7 have played 70 games. But six of those eight goals came in a recent eight-game stretch, and seven of his 31 points on the season came in a 10-game set.
Center - STL
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 31
SOG: 124 | +/-: 13
Again, it's not a Sidney Crosby
-type stretch in which multiple-point games come with regularity, but since the trade the brought in Ryan Miller
and Steve Ott
from the Buffalo Sabres
and saw the Blues lose Chris Stewart
's 15 goals, Berglund stepped up to fill the void.
"Ever since I've seen him play here, he's been a force," Ott said. "He's a big, strong body and playing the right way. That's why he's getting success out there."
Berglund went to Sochi and had an increased role in Sweden's run towards a gold medal; the Swedes ultimately settled for silver after losing to Canada. But after returning from Sochi, Berglund has been able pick up where the Olympics -- and even the Blues season -- left off.
"When you get back, it's kind of a restart to get going," Berglund said. "You've been missing the boys a whole lot. You know it's down the stretch before the playoffs start. I just got back happy and I was ready to play.
"I think I'm playing the same way. I'm shooting the puck. Now it's finding its way in. It's obviously nice."
Berglund scored a goal against the Nashville Predators recently that was a perfect example of what is a change in his game. He was able to fend off a defender and get a precise release off from the left circle to beat Pekka Rinne.
"I think he's able to do this because he can hang on offense a little bit longer," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Berglund. "He doesn't have the 200-foot responsibility to play down low. He's got the freedom to hang in a little bit longer. He doesn't have to play safety-wise and things like that. It's allowing and it's freeing up his energy to play maybe a little bit more on offense than he has in the past. He's always been the guy that's had to do the heavy lifting in our zone and it's hard for a guy, unless you're a real quick player, to be able to play 200 feet. ... He's got a great shot.
"A lot of these goals look similar. He's flat-out blowing it right through the goaltender."
Berglund, 25, has always maintained his confident nature, even when he went through prolonged stretches without scoring goals or putting up points. But in the Blues' system, there's so much more responsibility than just scoring.
"You can do a whole bunch of things out there that can get you confidence," Berglund said. "It's not just that the puck goes in. I've been doing other stuff that's been giving me the confidence to put one in. There's a lot of things out there you can do to gain confidence. You've just got to stick with it. If you can't score, you've got to do something else for the team and that's what everybody's doing for our team.
"I'm challenging more, holding onto the puck a little more, doing more and more cutbacks and trying to get more stuff going. It's been giving me more confidence and I've been getting some better chances to score. Obviously that's what I've been doing."
"He's played strong all year," said teammate Alexander Steen, who played on the same line with Berglund at Sochi. "The same with him, nothing really changes in his game. He's very consistent the way he plays. Right now, he's got a little extra jump, he's feeling pretty good with it. He's scoring some big goals for us."
Berglund's career high in goals (22), assists (30) and points (52) came three seasons ago, and he's not on pace to match those totals. But lower offensive numbers translate into better team success, Berglund will make the trade in a nanosecond.
"We're playing so well now," said Berglund, who has 14 goals, 17 assists and 31 points in 67 games. "We're really calm on the bench and really calm in the way we play. It's really huge that we can play this type of team game. It's great for everybody that we're playing such solid hockey."