Some St. Louis Blues fans just don't get. Maybe they never will. They don't understand how valuable 26 year old defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is out on the ice. The majority of hockey fans have become infatuated with goals and assists and why not. They are quite sexy and offer quick pleasure. It's harder to look further at what makes a defenseman great or vital to a team's success. If it hasn't been cemented yet, the play Pietrangelo aka Petro has proved to all Blues fans just how valuable he is every single shift of every single game.
The highest point total for Petro in his eight year career is 51 points, in two different seasons. That doesn't begin to cover what he does out there. I like to compare Petro to Marshall Faulk and Yadier Molina. When he is on the ice, Petro sees the entire slab of ice like a piece of computer software. He reads it and acts accordingly. That's what Faulk did in the backfield for the Rams for several seasons. He'd read the play and react. Molina sees the entire field from his vantage point and makes a decision that could impact the entire game. They are the masters on the ice. The ones that control how the fate of a game will go.
If Pietrangelo doesn't do his job on the ice, the other team's best line scores a shit load of goals. That's right. Petro gets all the minutes against Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Andrew Ladd and the rest of the Blackhawks weapons. He is out there to prevent as much as contribute offensively. If Petro doesn't do his job, the game gets out of hand.
Think of how smooth Pietrangelo is with the puck in the defensive zone. When several defensemen just flip the puck around or shaky feet and cough up the puck, #27 remains calm and just handles the puck and moves it out of the zone. It's as much mental and physical when it comes to what makes Petro great. He doesn't lose an ounce of mental toughness. So when the puck is dumped hard into the zone and someone has to beat a streaking Hawks winger to get it, Petro just calmly collects the puck and moves it out. You rarely see him turn it over. He's smart.
In the offensive zone, he is the same way, cutting down the angle on clearing attempts, moving the puck around with ease and maintaining a distance between the attacking Hawk. You ever notice on a power play how much space a penalty killer gives Petro. That's called respect. They aren't sure if he is going to shoot it, pass it, move the puck or do something else. He isn't easy to read. Take a look at the next power play.
When you look Corsi(all shots sent towards the net) and its ratings, Blues fans may point out that Kevin Shattenkirk's 62% Corsi For(all shots fired by Blues) is better than Petro's 48.9%. They will also say that the Corsi Against is less when Shatty is on the ice. What they may not notice is the total minutes played. Pietrangelo plays near 30 minutes a game. During the season, he played 1,920 minutes in 73 games. Shattenkirk, in 72 games, was on the ice for 1,241 minutes. Petro plays a LOT more minutes and against the best players. There's a reason Patrick Kane has largely been missing so far. There's a reason Martin Hossa hasn't been a factor. A reason Toews hasn't found his aim yet. Petro.
When I asked KSDK Sports Blues scribe Mike Poepping what made Petro so special, he talked about the improvement the 2008 first round pick has made since the All Star Break. "Pietro has really stepped up his play since the All-Star break. Not only does he shut down the opposing team's top guns night in and night out, but he's also found a more consistent offensive touch that has proven he's a true number-one defenseman. He's played in big games at all levels, and has shown he can lead effectively which is something the Blues need now, and in the future"
Who has been the Blues best player on the ice outside of Elliott? I asked Kangaroo Court STL and all around top notch Blues scribe Art Lippo and his answer was as blunt as ever. "Pietrangelo has been the Blues best skater thus far in the series and not even close. Basically giving a big "fuck you" to those who doubted his #1 D status."
The message is clear. Without Petro, the Blues would be fucked this series. He is the backbone of this team and a necessary element for success. Whether David Backes stays or goes in the offseason, the Captain's patch will eventually rest on Petro's chest. He is as much a part of the team's future as Vladimir Tarasenko. He is the computer on the ice protecting the team from crashing and helping them excel forward.
If you didn't know it on April 12th, you sure as shit know it today.
Go Blues. Screw the Hawks. Game 4 is tonight at 830pm on NBC Sports.