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Jaden Schwartz playing complete game for Blues

Forward finding rhythm with St. Louis on verge of sweeping Wild

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz had a tough time for a two-month stretch from Jan. 21-March 18. The puck simply wouldn't go in the net for the St. Louis Blues left wing.

Well, it did once, an empty-net goal at the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 15. But for those 25 games, Schwartz went through a challenging time.

"It was obviously frustrating," Schwartz said. "Guys go through it at different times of the year, but I just [had] to find a way to try and get better at it. I didn't want to think about it too much and overthink things."

Schwartz, who had 55 points (19 goals, 36 assists) in 78 games, has since trusted his instincts. His three points (two goals, one assist) have helped the Blues take a 3-0 lead in their Western Conference First Round series against the Minnesota Wild. He scored the game-winner with 2:27 remaining in Game 2 and the tie-breaking goal in the second period of Game 3.

Video: STL@MIN, Gm2: Schwartz snipes for late lead

Game 4 is at Scottrade Center on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 2, FS-MW, FS-N), and Schwartz has found solace that he's playing a complete game, one that has the Wild finding it challenging to defend him at each end of the ice.

"When you're just playing with your instincts and working and going out there and playing, that's when things usually happen," Schwartz said. "I felt I was doing all those things and the puck then started going in. You do feel better, but I never felt like my game was lacking or anything. I got some puck luck on that one goal [against the Colorado Avalanche on March 21 that started a stretch of four goals in four games] and then you start to feel like they'll go in as long as the chances were there."

When Schwartz, 24, is at his best, he possesses the puck, spinning and cutting on a dime away from defenders while cycling pucks and creating plays for his teammates. On the defensive end, he hounds the opposition and is on the hunt for those pucks. 

"Other parts of the game have been good, whether it's been takeaways or forechecks or creating for other guys ... I feel like we've been getting a lot of chances," Schwartz said. "Whether the pucks go in or not, I try not to gauge my game. Obviously it's a better feeling, you get a little bit more confidence when the puck's going in. I feel like other parts of the game have been pretty solid."

A left-ankle fracture on Oct. 23, 2015, made it tough for Schwartz to be that type of player for a long time, but it has been on full display throughout this series. 

"I said right from the start of the series people are going to get a chance to see how good he really is," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "We kind of had that five-game skid earlier [Feb. 18-March 3] and the way that he's come out since that time, he's been phenomenal. He went through that incredibly long goalless drought, which was so bizarre because he was getting about four or five Grade A chances a night. But the things he does at both ends of the ice, I really think he's elevated his game and his role as a leader with this group.

"There was a lot of talk at the start of the season, obviously there's a lot of big names and a lot of personalities and key players that left this group, and we knew it was going to be a bit of a transition period. But certainly you have to look at a guy like [Schwartz] and how he's evolved as a leader and the way he comes to play night after night. I have to think it's a good sign for the future."

Video: MIN@STL, Gm3: Schwartz jams home Steen's feed

Schwartz has thrived playing on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko and rookie Ivan Barbashev.

"[Schwartz] always plays hard," Tarasenko said. "He has so much skill and he works all over [the] ice. Never did anyone feel he lose confidence in his game." 

And now Schwartz and the Blues are on the verge of their first series sweep since eliminating the Dallas Stars in the 2001 Western Conference Semifinals.

"That fourth one is going to be tough," Schwartz said. "They're going to do everything they can to bring it back to Minnesota. Both teams have a couple [days] to get ready. It should be another fun one."

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