Zach Sanford played over Jori Lehtera in Friday night’s Game 2 against the Wild. Mike Yeo thinks he’s improving as his confidence grows, and Sanford is grateful the Blues are giving him a chance he wasn't given in Washington.
Ivan Barbashev, who’s been playing with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz on the Blues’ top line, is a rookie. A few months ago he was playing for the Chicago Wolves in the AHL. While he was nervous for his first playoff matchup (Game 1), he gave Sanford some advice.
“I was a little nervous, but not too bad,” explained Sanford. “I was actually talking to Barbie before the game a little bit and he was like ‘Yeah I was pretty nervous too, but once you get those first two shifts in you’ll be fine’.”
Sanford was traded to the Blues from Washington in the Kevin Shattenkirk trade. As a Capital, he played 26 games and recorded three points. As a Blue, he’s played 13 games and earned 5 points.
“Honestly, I had no clue what to expect here,” said Sanford. “I didn’t know if I’d be here or Chicago or what. I think it’s worked out well and I’ve got pretty comfortable here, which is good."
“A lot of games there (Washington), I was playing fourth line—8 or 9 minutes. Getting that chance to play on the third line for 12 or 13 minutes, some power-play time… I think, just getting those touches and being out there more has helped with my confidence and how comfortable I feel.”
He credits this growth in confidence to why his game has elevated here in St. Louis.
Coach Mike Yeo also thinks Sanford’s game is evolving, and he’s impressed with the way he’s conducting himself as a young, inexperienced player.
“I liked Sanny’s game,” said Yeo of Sanford's performance in Game 2. “He’s a big body with speed, and for a young kid playing in his first playoff game on the road against a team like that… For him to play that way is pretty impressive.”
Yeo said he had a conversation with Lehtera yesterday. He liked how Game 2’s lineup looked, and said not to expect change. While Yeo credits the scratches (Yakupov, Lehtera, Jaskin, Schmaltz) for helping the Blues get to where they are today, Sanford is likely to remain in the lineup over Lehtera in Game 3.