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Justin Faulk’s renaissance is underway

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He’s performing at the level that fans expected last year.

Arizona Coyotes v St Louis Blues Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images

Before the season started, much was said about Justin Faulk and his role on the team. Losing Alex Pietrangelo understandably shifted focus to the defenseman whose contract was slowly turning into an albatross around Doug Armstrong’s neck. What if that huge deal is why it was difficult to sign Alex Pietrangelo? What if Petro leaving was followed up by another sub-par season from Faulk? Would he be the first offered up on a plate to the expansion Seattle Kraken? Would they even take that contract?

Questions are always fair. It was perfectly legitimate to raise an eyebrow at Faulk starting the season on the top pairing with Torey Krug instead of Colton Parayko skating with the former Bruin. Coach Craig Berube and the rest of the coaching staff saw an opportunity for Faulk there, and it was an opportunity that could be rescinded later if need be, no problem.

Faulk has taken that opportunity and hasn’t let go.

There’s a debate about if the historical Renaissance ever really was a legitimate thing, insofar as its impact on the population as a whole (obviously, it happened, but folks living during that period weren’t quite as aware of it being a massive deal as, say, people during the Industrial Revolution). If a rebirth has to impact those around whatever’s being reborn, then Faulk’s renaissance so far is the real deal.

Faulk has two two-goal games so far this season, putting him at five goals and three assists for the season. He had five goals and eleven assists in 63 games last year. Plus/minus-wise (a stat that everyone loves to debate), Faulk has shifted from a -9 to a league best +16 so far on the year. Faulk’s only finished with a positive +/- once in his career, a +9 in 2018-2019.

Faulk’s success could come down to his 12.5% shooting percentage (again, a career high) and his incredibly high 80.0 shots through percentage, which are the percent of Faulk’s shots that wind up on goal. Faulk’s shooting has improved this season. Obviously, something is clicking between Faulk and his pairing partner, Krug. Is it sustainable success? That’s a tough question to answer, because you won’t be able to tell something like that so early in the season. His shooting percentage and shots through percentage will probably regress a little bit. Even if it does, it’s still overall a trend that Blues fans want to see.

Maybe it’s the mustache. Maybe it’s Krug. Maybe last year was a wake-up call. Who knows? It’s nice to see Faulk succeed - no one was actively rooting for him not to; many Blues fans were concerned about return on investment. If someone actually is rooting for Faulk to fail, they’re going to be disappointed this season. If players are successful as individuals within a team, the team’s successful. The Blues have had to snap themselves out of some sketchy play this season here and there, and the strong play of their top defensive pairing has gone a long way toward that.