BLUES EXTRAS

Schwartz off to a fast start

Play by the new Blues winger, just 19, reason for optimism.
2012-03-23T10:15:00Z 2012-03-26T10:30:04Z Schwartz off to a fast startBY JEREMY RUTHERFORD • jrutherford@post-dispatch.com > 314-444-7135 stltoday.com

LOS ANGELES • When Jaden Schwartz scored his first NHL goal on his first shot last Saturday, those gathered in the basement of the family's home in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, rose to their feet and roared. A moment later, there was a second eruption upstairs.

"My husband and the men were downstairs," Carol Schwartz, Jaden's mother, said. "They saw the goal first and because of the delay (with the television feed), it took a few seconds for us to cheer. They were waiting for us to see the goal."

Carol and Rick Schwartz didn't have to wait long to see their son score in person. On Wednesday, with Rick and Carol on hand in Anaheim, Calif., Jaden netted his second NHL goal on his second shot attempt. At 19, he became the first teenager since Philadelphia's Eric Lindros in 1992 to score a goal in his first two NHL games.

There has been no delay in the christening of Schwartz's professional hockey career. Two weeks after wrapping up his sophomore season at Colorado College, the left winger stepped into the lineup of the NHL's No. 1 club and caused reason for optimism within the organization.

"Anytime you come in and play your first few games, you're probably going to be a bit nervous," said forward Jamie Langenbrunner, who played his first NHL game in April 1995, when Schwartz was 2½ years old. "But I think he's played a real calm game and obviously been rewarded with a couple of goals. He looks comfortable out there."

It's fitting that Schwartz's third NHL game Thursday was in Los Angeles, near Hollywood, because if he looks comfortable, he's doing a solid acting job. His goal-scoring has made the transition to a new system, teammates and coach look easier than in reality.

"It's really hard," Schwartz said. "The guys are so good you're playing against, the best players in the world ... their tempo is a lot quicker. You've just got to work hard, trust your instincts and if you do make a mistake, work harder and make up for it."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has been impressed with how many details Schwartz's game already possesses.

"He does the little things you spend hours and days working with guys on ... he does them now," Hitchcock said. "His reads, his ability to not chase the check, he knows what to do on the boards. He stays on the right side of pucks to keep pucks in. He knows where to go based on shooting angles. He knows where the rebound is going to be and he jumps on rebounds.

"He has what I call quickness to the inside. The two goals he scored, he out-quicked people on the inside to the puck. The other thing, if you look at both goals, he's hammered both right through the net. So he's not allowed the goalie to become a factor by pounding it through the back of the net, which is what hungry offensive players do."

Schwartz smiled when told that he was the first teen since Lindros to score in his first two NHL games.

"That's pretty special ... I didn't even know that," he said. "Two games in, I've got a long ways to go. But I didn't know that. That's pretty cool."

It's not anything that will go to Schwartz's head. He's always been "very responsible," according to his mother, and that trait only intensified when he watched his sister, Mandi, battle through a lengthy bout with leukemia before her death about a year ago.

"With everything that happened with his sister (Mandi), he had to grow up real quick," Carol Schwartz said. "It's nice to see him get to where he's going and have the maturity to handle it real well. Ever since we lost her, I always thought she was his guardian angel."

Schwartz's maturity has shown brightly with his teammates.

"He's gone about the right way," said Langenbrunner, who retrieved the puck when Schwartz scored his first goal. "He's kept a pretty quiet profile coming into the dressing room. You don't want to just come in and say, 'Hey, here I am.' He sticks around and does the right things as a young guy. He's got everybody's attention about what a good kid he seems to be. When you do that, everyone is going to accept him and he's going to find a way to be comfortable. You can see it more and more. He's actually smiling again now and looks like a normal kid as far as enjoying hockey."

Perhaps not scoring goals on his first two shots in the NHL, but the Blues point out they did envision this when they signed Schwartz.

"Yeah actually," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "We want to put players into position to succeed, and we felt that if he wasn’t ready for this level, we would have signed him and put him in Peoria. But seeing him in college, knowing him as a person, and his maturity level, we felt at worst he’d be able to fit in here and learn from the experience. We knew he was going to get some games, and obviously the first two games have gone very well for him."

"It’s been a great opportunity," Schwartz said. "It’s a dream come true … fun to be here right now."

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