It was always going to be an emotional game. No Erik Johnson, no Jay McClement. Instead, the Blues welcomed power forward Chris Stewart and rookie defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk into the fold. The two new players had left California at 4am, where the Avalanche were due to play the San Jose Sharks and, with a change in Salt Lake City, arrived in St Louis at around lunch-time. Hours later, they were on the ice for the first game with their new team. So, what kind of impact did our two new players have?
A quiet first period for them – despite the game itself being wild and woolly. They were both feeling their way – getting used to their new surroundings and new teammates. It was in the second period that they both came alive. Chris Stewart is a big, power forward – he used his size well, battling for pucks along the boards and creating room for his linemates. During powerplays, he’s moving around – in the slot or in front of the crease – perfectly placed for tip-ins and redirections. Stewart is strong, he can hit and he has great hands. More importantly, he can score goals.
Kevin Shattenkirk is in his first NHL year – a rookie who is second only to Cam Fowler in points amongst rookie defensemen so far. He has a really good hockey sense – sees play develop and adjusts accordingly. Shattenkirk is also a good point man on the powerplay. With Pietrangelo on one side and Shattenkirk on the other, the Blues have great options going forward on the powerplay. In fact, the Blues were 3 for 5 on the powerplay last night. Shattenkirk is still learning – he’s still a rookie – but he’s learning very quickly. With the tools he already has in place, it looks like the Blues have got their hands on a very good offensive defenseman to complement their existing D corps.
Speaking after the game, Shattenkirk agreed that the first period was a bit nervous:
“I think we kind of got the nerves out in the first period. I kind of forgot about the fatigue and long travel today, kind of got that out of my system. … There’s obviously a lot of talented players here and it’s pretty refreshing to play with such great guys and great talent.”
As for Chris Stewart, his smile said it all. It definitely didn’t take him long to settle in:
“It wasn’t that hard. By the time my plane landed I had three or four texts from guys welcoming me. It was an easy transition … an easy adjustment. I felt like I fit right in out there.”
The crowd gave him a terrific ovation – it certainly looks like he’s won fans hearts already. And the feeling appears mutual:
“That was probably the best crowd I’ve ever played in front of. It’s going to be easy to play here if the fans are like that every night.”
The full post game interview with Chris Stewart, TJ Oshie and Andy McDonald is on the Blues Website