In Brayden Schenn’s 500th game with Blues, his 2 goals keep team in the fight

ST. LOUIS — Back in 2017, Brayden Schenn was on a golf trip with a few buddies when he found out that he’d been traded to the St. Louis Blues from the Philadelphia Flyers.

Go ahead and name-drop, Brayden. Tell us who the buddies were.

“I guess Sid (Crosby), Nate MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie,” Schenn said sheepishly. “We did an annual trip and we were golfing in the morning and laying low in the afternoon. Those guys were napping and I was sitting on the couch for the first round of the (NHL) draft.

“I didn’t have my phone on ring and I looked down and it (was former Flyers GM) Ron Hextall. Immediately, I said, ‘Where am I going?’ He said, ‘Thanks for being a Flyer, you’re going St. Louis,’ and that was that.”

That was nearly seven years ago.

On Monday, Schenn played his 500th game with the Blues, and it’s safe to say that none have been as trying as this season. He’s been dealing with the pressure that comes with being a first-time captain. Oh, and in just the fourth year of an eight-year, $52 million contract, he’s had a target on his back that’s only gotten bigger with scoring droughts of 16 and 18 consecutive games this season.

“It’s been a year of a lot going on, put it that way,” Schenn said. “I’ve learned a lot this year, personally. I’m going to reflect after the year.”

But there’s not a lot of time to do that now, especially for a Blues team that was trying to save face Monday following a 4-0 shutout loss to the last-place San Jose Sharks two days earlier and somehow try to stay in the Western Conference wild-card race.

“Yeah, busy day at the rink,” he said. “Obviously a lot of unhappy people internally in the locker room and as an organization. As far as a message, it was just, ‘You can go about this two ways: You can either give up and mail it in for eight games and be miserable, or you dig in and push till the end.’”

The Blues elected to push Monday, beating Edmonton 3-2 in overtime, and it was Schenn who scored the team’s first two goals before Brandon Saad sealed the two points with his OT winner.

In 18:09 of ice time, Schenn directed four shots at the net, had three hits and won eight of 10 faceoffs. His line with Kevin Hayes and Kasperi Kapanen did a nice job against the Oilers, with Schenn personally being on the ice against Connor McDavid for five shots for and just two against in 3:39 of head-to-head ice time, according to Natural Stat Trick.

“I’m really proud of his response here tonight, being his 500th game as a St. Louis Blue and the performance he had scoring the two goals,” Blues coach Drew Bannister said. “He’s been in the league for a long time. It’s a different animal when you become the captain of a team. It’s like being a young player again, to be quite honest with you.

“I’ve been in that situation at different levels, pro and junior, and there’s a learning curve. He’s handled it very well, but it takes time. It takes time to become a good captain and a good leader in the National Hockey League. But he’s doing all the right things, and tonight was certainly a good example of his leadership skills.”

Schenn tied the score, 1-1, with a power-play goal in the second period. The one-timer from the right side was his 16th goal of the season and the Blues’ first goal in four periods, after being shut out by the Sharks.

Blues goalie Jordan Binnington said: “You’re happy to see it. You can feel it. You can see the excitement on the bench.”

Bannister mixed up the forward combinations against Edmonton on Monday so that the Blues could match up better against the Oilers’ skilled depth. He made Schenn the third-line center and flanked him with Kevin Hayes on the left and Kasperi Kapanen.

“The whole purpose was to become a better defensive team,” Bannister said. “When they started double-shifting the McDavid line and putting (Leon) Draisaitl together, I was comfortable with having three lines out. I felt like all three lines that had to play against them played them well, and they seemed to have energy playing against them.”

Although the purpose was to be better defensively, the Blues’ trio connected for some offense early in the second period. Hayes floated the puck into the neutral zone, where Kapanen scooped it up and set up Schenn for his second goal of the game on another one-timer.

“Kappy made a great play,” Schenn said. “A play like that, I see him looking at me. As he stepped over the blue line, I just opened up and didn’t get all of it, but luckily it went in.”

It was Schenn’s third multi-goal game of the season and first since Nov. 30 against Buffalo.

“Yeah offensively, it’s been a little up and down this year, but it’s nice to contribute and help the team,” he said.

Saad called Schenn’s contributions against the Oilers huge.

“Yeah, for him to step up like that, scoring goals and timely goals, too, they were huge,” Saad said. “He’s a big part of our team, he’s our leader. He keeps a positive attitude — never too high, never too low. He has a good message for the team, and there’s no panic in his game.”

“Yeah, he’s had a lot on his plate this year,” Binnington added. “Hats off to him just being able to navigate through it and get our group to where we are now, just having a fighting chance, and at the same time being able to produce a game like tonight.”

With Monday’s win and Los Angeles’ 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the Blues are just three points behind the Kings (87-84) for the second wild-card spot. The Blues have seven games to play, while the Kings have eight.

“We’re still in the fight,” Schenn said. “It’s nice to see that we got a response and there’s no quit in this team. We understand that we’re going to need some help along the way, but it’s nice to see that guys aren’t folding and keep on digging until the end. Now it’s up to us to go into Nashville and play the same way. We have to take care of our own business. Scoreboard watching isn’t going to help if you’re losing your own hockey games.”

As he mentioned, Schenn will reflect after the season, though he allowed himself to do so a little after No. 500 in a Blues uniform.

“I didn’t even know until this morning,” he said. “I’ve always said St. Louis has been the best thing for me career-wise, but just living here and meeting great people and playing with great teammates. When you first get the call to St. Louis, you don’t really know what to expect. But just having the chance to be a Blue and win a Stanley Cup and be captain for this team, it’s been the best thing for my career.”

(Photo of Brayden Schenn scoring his second goal against the Oilers: Rick Ulreich / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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