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Brouwer is X-factor for Blues against Sharks

Forward has added physical dimension, playoff leadership to St. Louis

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- When Troy Brouwer was acquired for T.J. Oshie last summer, it created a bit of a firestorm because one of the most popular players to wear a St. Louis Blues jersey was suddenly gone.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong wasn't trying to win any popularity contests because after a third straight Western Conference First Round exit, he felt he needed a different element to his team.

"He's been a very good player for us," Armstrong said of Brouwer, who will help lead the Blues into Game 1 of the conference final against the San Jose Sharks at Scottrade Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). "That was a good hockey trade I think for both teams. Washington [Capitals] is very happy with T.J. and we're very happy with Troy. Neither team traded the player they traded for any reason other than they were getting a different style of player.

"We have players who play like T.J. on our roster right now and we needed someone who played like Troy Brouwer and they needed someone who played like T.J. Oshie. It was a really good fit. He goes to the blue area, he goes to the paint, he goes to the front of the net, he plays in the hard areas, and that's something that we needed for the type of players we had around him."

It took a player of Oshie's stature to get a player of Brouwer's caliber. The Blues needed a player like Brouwer, the Capitals needed a player like Oshie. In the end, a hockey trade was consummated and it worked out.

Brouwer's value spills over off the ice too. On it, he has five goals and five assists (all in the past nine games), and when he had a point against the Dallas Stars in the second round, the Blues were 4-0. When he didn't, they were 0-3.

One reason the Blues are in the conference final for the first time since 2001 is Brouwer's tendency to be the voice of reason for an already veteran-laden lineup. He stands out because he is the only player on the roster to have won a Stanley Cup, with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.

"It's kind of cliche, but I'd like to say experience and for the fact I've been in so may Game 7s (an NHL-record eight straight) and I've been in so many different situations," Brouwer said. "I think in my playoff career, I've been in every situation as far as games, winning games, lost games, down three games, up three games, I've been in every situation just to provide a little insight as much as I can.

"It also helps that we have a veteran team here and guys have such determination this time of the year, but just to try and help give a little bit of information, a little bit of experience. It's what I pride myself on."

Video: CHI@STL, Gm7: Brouwer beats Crawford in the crease

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has many veteran players he can turn to for leadership; David Backes, Alexander Steen, Steve Ott, Paul Stastny, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk to name a few. But they don't have that championship aura that Brouwer has and that element can go a long way, especially this time of year.

"He provides the conscience," Hitchcock said of Brouwer. "Play the game the right way, act the right way, behave the right way. At this time of year, it's so emotional. Things flow over ... but he provides this professionalism that you have to follow. It's a great quality. At this time of year, you can't have enough of those guys. I've always said this, playoffs are for veteran players, and they are for guys like him and Steen and Backes.

"This is their time, and you can see it in their disposition and the way they raise their level."

Video: STL@DAL, Gm7: Brouwer nets beautiful tic-tac-toe play

In Game 7 against the Stars, Brouwer and linemates Stastny and rookie Robby Fabbri took over. They talked about being difference-makers and were, combining for nine points (one goal and two assists each).

Brouwer, 30, a pending unrestricted free agent, knows his season will be judged on how he performs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the Blues advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1970, he'll play a big role in it, on and off the ice.

"I try to be the calming influence to be honest with you," Brouwer said. "If guys have questions, I'm more than happy to answer them. I'm not going to pretend like I'm the playoff guru or anything, but I've won a Stanley Cup, I've been to every single round so far. You know how the competition gets revved up game in, game out; you know how the reffing gets kind of sorted out game in, game out, series in, series out.

"You try and keep guys calm in every situation you can but you also have to keep that excitement and that determination as well."

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