The St. Louis Blues knew they had one of the league’s better defenders as soon as they selected Alex Pietrangelo. The rest of the league is catching on now as well.
The St. Louis Blues have been touting Alex Pietrangelo for years. He has not been mentioned among the elite in the past, nor should he have been. This year, he is definitely making a case to be on that list.
When the season began, Pietrangelo came out on fire. He was playing like a captain. He was scoring goals and he was helping keep them out.
Due to all that combination, his name shot to the front of the list when it came to early discussion for the Norris Trophy. As happens, his play cooled off due to an injury and also due to the team hitting a wall. So, he fell back in the pack.
Like any good marathon, though, it’s about how you finish. Right now, Pietrangelo’s name is not in front, but he’s not out of the race either.
After struggling to find his game returning from a brief injury, Pietrangelo is righting his own ship now. He’s definitely found his offensive game, scoring a goal and six points in his last six games.
Defending is still a little hit or miss. When the Blues are going good, he defends well. When the team is playing poorly, he seems to mirror that.
In the Blues last three wins, he was on the positive side of the plus-minus stat. In their last two embarrassing losses, to Arizona and Florida, he was a combined minus-six.
That’s not exactly leading by example, but not 100% his fault either.
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The bottom line is that Pietrangelo, like many of the Blues, is still finding his game again. If he does it quickly, he can definitely get his name back into serious consideration for best NHL defenseman.
Looking at the offensive stats, he’s not out of it, but falling behind. Even with two assists in the team’s last game before the All-Star break, Pietrangelo is 13 points behind John Klingberg.
The Dallas Stars defender is having a career season. He is only 10 points away from his career high with 33 games to play.
Additionally, he’s been the main bright spot on a team that struggled out of the gate. Despite boasting three 20 goal scorers, Klingberg is actually second on the Stars in scoring right now.
Klingberg’s point share numbers are amazing as well. Both offensive and defensive point shares are both above three, meaning he’s contributing to the team’s success, whether in the defensive zone or offensive.
It will be hard to catch him, but not impossible. Pietrangelo’s 35 points at the break puts him fifth in defensive scoring.
He might not pick up the needed points to catch Klingberg, but if he picks his defensive game back up to the level it was to begin the season, that will aid his cause. After all, this is the race for the best defender, not the most offensive one.
On top of that, Pietrangelo is in good shape for his defensive numbers as well. Of the four scorers ahead of him, two are minus-players right now. Amazingly, Brent Burns is a minus-21 on a normally good defensive team. Considering he has 41 points at the break, that’s pretty bad.
So, despite some major lapses, Pietrangelo is not out of the mix by any means.
If the season ended today, would he win it? Surely not. His defensive play has not been fitting of a captain, much less a leader in general.
However, there have been enough improvements since the injury to at least put him back into the discussion. Other players might need a drop off for him to be back at the front of the list, but Pietrangelo can get back into it.
All he needs to do is be the Pietrangelo this team needs. That is more than enough to get him mentioned among the league’s best defenders.