ST. LOUIS -- Since being selected in the first round of the 2006 NHL Draft, St. Louis Blues forward Patrik Berglund has always had a shadow cast over him as a player who should have produced at a high level.
Berglund, 27, has certainly had his ups and downs throughout his career and has taken a tremendous amount of heat from Blues fans after scoring 21 goals with 26 assists in his rookie season of 2008-09. That same fan base expected more.
Judging by his play in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Berglund has exhibited the kind of game the Blues knew he could play on a daily basis.
Berglund will be a key piece moving forward starting with Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks at Scottrade Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
His four goals and four assists in 14 playoff games don't paint the entire picture of the impact he's having playing on the third line with David Backes and either Alexander Steen, Robby Fabbri, and recently, Jori Lehtera.
Video: STL@DAL, Gm7: Berglund beats Lehtonen from the point
At 6-foot-3, 217 pounds, Berglund has the size, ability and strength to dominate all aspects of the ice, and according to Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, he's doing that.
"This is the best he's played since I coached him," said Hitchcock, who is in his fifth season with St. Louis. "What we've got is speed and tenacity. He's got acceleration in his game, he's got determination in his game that's at another level from what he's played at, which is a great sign for us."
Berglund has displayed signs of breakthrough play before but, for one reason or another, there have been many peaks and valleys; he's scored fewer goals each season since setting an NHL career-high of 22 in 2010-11.
Hitchcock had no answer to what's brought on this good play, only that he's glad to be getting it.
"I don't know. It just happened," Hitchcock said. "I don't know to be honest with you. Maybe it's the time of year, maybe it's maturity, I'm not sure. He's a very determined player right now, which is a good sign for us."
Video: DAL@STL, Gm6: Berglund finishes Lehtera's nifty dish
Berglund smiled when told of Hitchcock's comments, but said he felt sticking to his game and being patient would pay off.
"I've been feeling good and getting some goals and stuff like that," Berglund said. "Obviously it's nice to help out the team that way. I take a lot of pride in playing that hard defensive game, play against their top lines and try to shut them down, stuff like that. So far it's been good."
Berglund needed shoulder surgery this offseason for an injury that plagued him since the end of the 2013-14 season. He missed the first 40 games before returning to score 10 goals and five assists in 42 games.
It took Berglund time to settle in after the injury, but now he feels 100 percent.
"Absolutely. I was gone for a long time," said Berglund, who has a Blues-best plus-9 rating this postseason. "Yeah, it took some time. But I don't think it took that long. The guys helped me out really well. I pretty much played with [Backes] the whole year, so he's been a good help for me and did a lot of work for me when I got really tired out there. But overall it was obviously really nice to get the shoulder fixed and I felt much more confident on the ice, obviously."
Playing on a third line together gives the Blues plenty of beef with Berglund and Backes (6-foot-3, 221 pounds) that can pose lots of matchup problems.
Video: STL@DAL, Gm2: Berglund snipes one to even the score
"[Berglund's] a big body that with the injury out for the first half of the year, it's tough to jump into the middle of a season," Backes said. "I can imagine (it was tough) to get up to pace and get your legs under you and join the rest of the group. That being said, he started off pretty hot, then there was a little lull. I think he's probably benefiting now from not having a full season of the grind of what you go through and the energy lapses and all of the stuff you go through an 82-game season would bring you. That being said, I think the last two games against Dallas were some of the best hockey I've seen him play in his career, and I've been here for every single game of it.
"When his big frame gets the puck and he's skating well and he's determined, I know from experience at practices it's tough to take it from him, it's tough to defend, and with him going the way he's going right now, if we continue that, he's just another asset, another weapon in the arsenal for us to have."
As for this being Berglund's best hockey of his career, he couldn't help but offer a joke.
"Did you see me in Juniors? I was sick," Berglund said. "I was better back then, I think.
"No, I'm happy with how I'm playing right now but there's more to go so I hope I can elevate it even more."