The St. Louis Blues have true defensive depth for the first time in years. That can be a double-edged sword, if not handled correctly.
The St. Louis Blues have always prided themselves on being a sound, defensive team. Some years, it just did not work out by the end of the season in terms of having guys healthy.
The Blues would usually go into the postseason with someone banged up, even if they toughed it out. If not injuries, the Blues might just not have had guys at the right stage of their career. Talent is talent, but experience trumps all.
In 2018-19, the Blues have it all. They have all their players healthy and they have the depth to go along with it, should injuries happen along the way.
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Waiting in the wings are guys like Robert Bortuzzo and Michael Del Zotto. Both of those guys have playoff experience and both of them stepped in nicely when they needed to fill the gaps late in the regular season.
You have Jay Bouwmeester playing back to the way he expected. Alex Pietrangelo has his detractors, but he’s much closer to the defenseman we hoped he would be than the one we saw early in the season. Colton Parayko is still solid all around.
The drawback of all this depth is having to make tough choices. The Blues are basically going to have to decide if certain players are truly back to form if they are going to put them in there.
In a perfect world, the Blues would roll with Edmundson and Gunnarsson. Those are the two guys that played the most games in the year and the ones the team seems to trust the most.
The problem is they did not return to the lineup until the final week or two of the season. Gunnarsson showed a lot of rust when he returned and it affected aspects of the team’s play.
Edmundson looked fine in his return. The issue with him is he had a lower body injury. Not skating could affect his conditioning.
So, the Blues will have to make that call. Do they really trust those guys are healthy?
They better. You cannot have weak links in the chain against a team like Winnipeg.
Hockey players are warriors. They are not going to take themselves out of the lineup. Coaches have to make those tough choices.
You have the depth for a reason. If it comes to it, you need to trust in guys like Bortuzzo and Del Zotto.
They are not perfect. Bortuzzo makes the occasional bone-head play and Del Zotto is still feeling his way out with this team.
However, they are NHL defensemen. You’ve used them enough this year in key situations that you have to trust in your depth in the playoffs.
The chances are high you may need to play one or two of them anyway. Players get banged up in these tough series and sometimes you just need that night off or you need fresh legs.
So, that’s the choice in front of Craig Berube. It’s great to have depth and the Blues will need to use it. It does force him to make tough decisions knowing he cannot afford to let a player go into the playoffs at 70%.
If everyone is honest, things will work out. The Blues will make the right call as to who needs to be in the lineup. Thankfully, they have this battle tested depth instead of relying on unproven talent on the blue line. St. Louis has enough of that elsewhere.