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X-Factor: Blues' Schwartz tired of silent springs

Forward hopes to propel St. Louis to deep playoff run

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- Like his teammates at the end of another early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2015, St. Louis Blues forward Jaden Schwartz was numb.

Schwartz was numb because it would be another offseason of "what ifs" the Blues would face, and it was the third straight time the Blues would be faced with answering questions of why it ended so quickly after another stellar regular season.

Schwartz was one who wondered what he could have done differently to help the Blues advance past the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference First Round, a series that ended in six games. Schwartz, who finished the regular season with a career-high 28 goals and 35 assists in 75 games, had a goal and two assists in six games.

"I think that's the case anytime you lose a playoff series," Schwartz said. "There's always more you could have done, the 'what ifs,' the chances that you had or different things. I think that's typical for everybody, no matter what stage you're in the playoffs. When you lose in the playoffs, that's going to go through your mind, so that was no different."

Video: BOS@STL: Schwartz buries beautiful saucer pass

Schwartz will have to play a big role for the Blues if they are to hurdle that playoff barrier in 2016. After missing 49 games with a fractured left ankle sustained Oct. 23, Schwartz returned and will be leaned on to help the Blues overcome their offensive shortcomings; they've scored 38 goals the past three seasons in 18 playoff games.

"For us to advance, he's going to have to be a prime player; he's going to have to be a productive prime player," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Schwartz. "This is his time. Hopefully, he does that. Every team's got key guys. He's going to be a key guy that we're going to really count on."

Schwartz, who finished this season with eight goals and 14 assists in 33 games, has regularly played on the "STL Line" with leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera, and is used in the role former Blues forward T.J. Oshie filled before he was traded to the Washington Capitals last offseason.

"He's impacted [the lineup] in that he's given us flexibility," Hitchcock said. "We've got flexibility that we've never had before. He's allowed us to maneuver other players around. He's the one guy that can play with anybody, so that flexibility really, really helped us, and it's given us a position where we can use it as an advantage rather than always looking to negate the opposition."

Video: LAK@STL: Schwartz's overtime winner

Schwartz has two goals and five assists in 18 playoff games spanning three seasons. Hitchcock won't hesitate using his most persistent forechecker in any situation. It's a good weapon, or wild card, to have.

"I feel like when I'm at the top of my game and I'm working, staying on the hunt, being aggressive, I think just the points, those will come," Schwartz said. "There might be certain times when they might not go in as much as you'd like. But over time, if you're putting the work in or if you're focused doing your job, that'll come."

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