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Troy Brouwer finds scoring touch at perfect time for Blues

St. Louis Blues' Troy Brouwer (36) celebrates after scoring past San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones (31) during the first period in Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference finals Saturday, May 21, 2016, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Coming into 2015-16, St. Louis Blues forward Troy Brouwer knew he wasn’t going to be judged on how he performed in the regular season.

Sure it was important for Brouwer to give the Blues his typical near 20 goals over the 82 games, but really it was the postseason where St. Louis needed Brouwer to be a difference maker.

“Coming into this playoffs, I had a lot of expectations on me this year,” Brouwer said “With what (GM Doug Armstrong) expected from me when he traded for me, telling me that my season was going to be judged on how I handled myself, how I played in the playoffs, down the stretch.  When you have expectations like that on you, you want to perform your best.” 

So far Brouwer has delivered all postseason for St. Louis and at the most crucial moments for the Blues.

In Game 7 against the Dallas Stars, Brouwer scored one goal and added two assists. In Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks he scored the game-winning goal.

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In Game 4 at the San Jose Sharks, with his team down 2-1 in the series, Brouwer gave the Blues life with two goals – including the first one of the game to settle the group down – in a dominant 6-3 win.

He's set a career-high with 12 points and seven goals this playoffs. 

“Brouwer is a guy in these type of big games has kept coming and showing up,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “He¹s showed that to us all playoff. That¹s comforting for us.” 

St. Louis acquired Brouwer in a highly scrutinized trade last summer. In order to pick up Brouwer, the Blues sent highly popular forward T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals for a third-round draft choice in 2016 and Pheonix Copley.

Brouwer was a better goal scorer than Oshie, but he had never hit higher than the 43 points he’d scored twice in his NHL career. Ohsie had eclipsed 50 points three times before the trade and had a strong connection with the fan base after being drafted and developed by the Blues.

But Oshie had struggled in the playoffs with St. Louis, picking up just nine points in 30 games. Brouwer had won a Stanley Cup and been to two conference finals with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009 and 2010. He had 78 games of playoff experience before this year.

Coming into this playoffs he had played in seven straight series that had gone seven games but hadn’t picked up a point in any of those contests. He didn’t just need to prove his postseason worth to the Blues. He needed to re-prove his playoff value to himself as well.

“For me, I've been able to have some great responsibilities all throughout the season, earning the coaches' and the players' trust, being put in some really good situations for myself,” Brouwer said.

The strong playoffs couldn’t have come at a better time for the 30-year-old Brouwer, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

He’s in the last year of a three-year contract worth $11 million and players who have big postseasons tend to see their values spike heavily after a big run.

The Blues have $58.2 million locked into 29 contracts for next season according to General Fanager. Captain David Backes ($4.5 million salary cap hit) is also a pending unrestricted free agent and he too will likely get a raise. 

If Brouwer wants to stay with the Blues they could probably squeeze him in. If he wants to go somewhere else he could cash in as well. But that wasn't much of a storyline – until he hit his stride in the playoff.

He hasn’t changed his game at all or tried harder simply because of his offseason status. A lot of his goals come from in-and-around the goal net and he’s converted on those chances. It's a case of right place, right time, right moment. 

“I know they were both power play goals (in Game 4), but being around the net, finding those soft areas, getting my stick on the second one for a tip, those are things I consistently need to do,” Brouwer said. “Whether I'm scoring or whether we're creating chaos around the net to create more opportunities, I have to be consistent in doing those types of things.” 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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