For three seasons, Nathan Walker rode the San Antonio-Utica-Springfield Express up and down the Blues and wherever her AHL daughter happened to be.
This time he doesn’t go. At least that seems to be Walker’s attitude judging by his game. he wants to stay
“That’s my plan, right?” Walker asked after the Blues’ 6-4 win over Calgary on Saturday. “Everyone wants to play hockey and play in the NHL. I’m just trying to do my best here and help this team win. If I can play well enough and help the team win and get the points when we need them, hopefully things can go in the right direction.
At 28, Walker is no jumper by hockey standards. He is listed at 5ft 9 which seems generous. But he skates, he crashes, he scores. He did all three against the Flames, with his clutch goal in the third period giving the Blues a 4-3 lead with 1:56 to play.
“He’s a workhorse,” said defense attorney Justin Faulk. “He does everything you ask of a guy who plays like that. He plays the hard way. He’s physical, he blocks shots, he puts his body before everything.
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“It doesn’t matter if someone comes to hit him, he takes the hit. And to see him rewarded with goals is huge.”
Walker has scored seven goals in 16 games for the Blues this season, which would mean 35 goals on an 82-game schedule. He has scored three goals in seven games since his last call-up on March 22 from Springfield.
“And he brought a lot of energy to the group,” Faulk said. “Some nights you need the energy and he definitely brings it. That helps our group enormously.”
That energy and pugnacity makes Walker a good fit for a fourth-row role. Of course, he had a rotating cast of linemates in several of his games with the Blues because the team had fewer than 12 forwards. That was the case on Saturday when Jordan Kyou and Logan Brown both missed out through illness.
“Yeah, we’ve done it a few times, especially when COVID hit us in December,” Walker said. “So nothing unknown. And it will somehow – I won’t say the new norm, but it happens from time to time.
The blues have thrived in this direction. They’re 8-3-3 this season when playing with fewer than 11 forwards.
“Maybe the boys like the little extra Ice Age, too,” Walker said, smiling.
The 20 Goal Club
Brandon Saad’s five-second-left goal against Calgary gave him 20 goals this season. This made him the sixth blues player with at least 20: Pavel Buchnevich, David Perron and Vladimir Tarasenko have 23 each; Kyrou has 22: Ivan Barbashev has 21.
As Sunday’s games began, Florida was the only other team in the NHL with six 20-goal scorers.
Brayden Schenn is just around the corner at 19. There are only 14 games left in the regular season, but Ryan O’Reilly (16 goals) and Robert Thomas (15) are within striking distance.
Only two teams in franchise history have had more than six goalscorers of 20 goals each in a season.
The 1984-85 team had seven goalscorers with 20 goals each, led by Joe Mullen’s 40.
But the record belongs to the 1980-81 squad – with 10 players who scored 20 or more goals, led by Wayne Babych’s 54. The others: Jorgen Pettersson (37), Brian Sutter (35), Perry Turnbull (34), Bernie Federko (31), Mike Zuke (24), Tony Currie (23), Larry Patey (22) as well as Blair Chapman and Blake Dunlop with 20 goals each.
This was one of the best blues teams in franchise history. It finished second overall behind the New York Islanders with 107 points and a 45-18-17 record before being ousted by the New York Rangers in the second round of the playoffs.
Those were different times offensively, as the Blues averaged a whopping 4.40 goals per game — second only to the Islanders’ 4.44. For comparison, the Blues’ defense has conceded an average of 3.51 goals per game this season, which ranks seventh in the league. This season you would be 25th in team defense with 3.51 goals allowed per game.
This year, the Blues rank fifth in the NHL with 3.57 goals per game.