ST. LOUIS — One thing those that surround themselves around Jaden Schwartz learn quickly is that the Blues forward isn't one to talk himself up.
His teammates, on the other hand, well, that's another story.
"He’s been a machine lately," Blues goalie Jake Allen said of Schwartz. "He’s always been one of the engines for our hockey club up front. Just the way he works. He’s not always on the scoresheet but just his tenacity around the net down low, backchecking, we see him coming back, stripping a lot of pucks, turning pucks the other way, holding pucks in. He’s playing with a lot of confidence and playing well. He never had the offensive year he wanted last year and his complete game this year is second to none. The goals are coming as well. Good on him again and he’s one of those team leaders that doesn’t really let too many guys off the hook."
To which Schwartz replied, "I don't know, I don't really think about it that way. If Jakey thinks that, then I'm happy."
And that's all teammates really need to know about the man they call 'Schwiz' or 'Schwizzle Schwartz.'
Another thing those will learn quickly, especially opponents, is that it becomes a tiresome adventure following Schwartz around -- or in some cases, trying to shed him off of you -- can be a chore. One that's downright tiresome.
"I only have to do it for very short stints in practice, so that’s nice," admits Blues defenseman and teammate Justin Faulk.
Well, there are those that have to do it throughout a game, and watching Schwartz play these days makes him a tough out. An exhausting one.
If a skater has the puck in the defensive zone, chances are Schwartz is there swarming in every direction harassing and hounding the puck handler doing everything humanly possible to disrupt one's flow, getting a stick on a puck or stripping it away. Or at the very least, skate you to death and wanting to get to the bench as soon as possible.
Chances are he's in a similar form in all three zones, and when the puck's on his stick, good luck trying to get it away from him as he twists, turns or corkscrews his way out of a phone booth.
It's not a lot of fun having to play against Schwartz, but it sure is fun having the 27-year-old on their side. Just ask the Blues.
"You can see he’s ready to go, but I think if you watch the face-offs, every time the puck drops he jumps so hard, he’s on it right away, he’s getting into guys but at the same time, he’s almost beaten their guys off the mark and being able to get on their D right away," Faulk said. "When you see that and a guy’s ready to go off the face-off, you know it’s going to translate and carry over to the rest of his game. He’s been real tough for other teams and we appreciate that."
Schwartz has already surpassed his goal total (16) and point total (39) in 47 games this season than he had in 69 games last season (11 goals, 36 points) and is just two points off of matching his assist total from last season (25). He also had 20 points (12 goals, eight assists) in 26 Stanley Cup playoff games to help the Blues win their first title.
Schwartz is the prototypical player for a coach like Craig Berube, who's all about guys that grab their lunch pails and put in a work-based, blue-collared effort.
"It's effort. He's always tracking the puck and breaking plays up," Berube said of Schwartz. "He's just a hard-working guy. When he's on the ice, it's work, hounds pucks and he's going to the net hard, and he's getting rewarded with goals."
And that type of play is rubbing off on especially the younger players like Ivan Barbashev, Mackenzie MacEachern, Jacob de la Rose, Oskar Sundqvist, among others that have to survive on this kind of play to make it in the NHL.
"They see how hard he works all the time," Berube said of Schwartz. "I think there's a few guys on our team that really (see) from a work ethic standpoint. Guys see that and it rubs off on everybody. We're a work-based team. We've got to work."
Schwartz's work ethic was never questioned since the Blues drafted him with the 14th pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. Now, he leads, but does it more by example.
"We've always had good leaders here," Schwartz said. "Good guys to follow, good guys to lead the way. It rubs off on the younger guys and younger guys are obviously pulling their weight and they're learning and they're doing a good job of picking that up as well."
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