The St. Louis Blues might have their power play units somewhat set. They should alter those plans and go to a more traditional set up on at least one.
When the St. Louis Blues acquired Justin Faulk, the reaction was shock, to say the least. Whether you were in favor of the trade or not, there was little doubt that your mouth went open when you heard the news.
Statistically, the Blues were getting a far superior player to the one they’d given up. Faulk was a prototypical offensive defender.
He had 85 goals in his career with the Carolina Hurricanes and 258 points. His defense was not Norris Trophy worthy, but the Blues had other guys that would shore up that side.
Unfortunately, it never quite clicked for Faulk. After playing with one organization his entire career, and being the focal point of the power play, Faulk changed teams and never seemed to get comfortable.
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His new coach was sympathetic.
“Listen, when you come to another organization after you’ve been in one for a long time, and you’re slotted a certain way in one organization, it’s not easy a lot of times to come to a new organization and jump right in,” Blues coach Craig Berube said, as reported in the Post-Dispatch.
“We have a real good D-corps here and he knew that coming in. But he’s fit in nicely. I think that his play’s gotten better and better all year. Sure, he’s not happy with his points. That’ll improve, for sure. His power play time will improve for sure.”
That last bit is of interest. The fact Berube is leaving open the door for Faulk on the power play seems to indicate he might not be completely set with his 10-man, two-unit power play as it currently stands.
As of right now, the top power play unit would be Alex Pietrangelo, Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Schenn, David Perron and Jaden Schwartz. The second unit is Colton Parayko, Vladimir Tarasenko, Sammy Blais, Robert Thomas and Tyler Bozak.
Those units, especially with the inclusion of Tarasenko, have the ability to do well. Surprisingly, despite fan reaction being the opposite, the Blues actually finished third in power play percentage.
So, why mess with a good thing? The reason why is because Faulk would improve that second unit.
No offense to Blais, who has earned his spot in the top six and proven to be more than just a hitter, since he can score. However, using Faulk on the blue line would give the Blues more options.
The current problem with both power play units is the lack of a blue line presence. You have one defender on each one, meaning a forward has to cycle back to the blue line, even if you argue the Blues are not using a traditional power play formation.
You can get away with that on the top unit. Perron has enough of a shot to help out on the blue line.
That luxury does not exist on the second line. While he is continuously used there, Tarasenko is a waste on the point.
His shot is lethal, but not from distance. He lacks power and accuracy with a slap shot, taking away his offensive threat.
Regardless of his numbers, which were admittedly poor in 2019-20, Faulk is a proven power play asset. Of his 85 goals in Carolina, 40 had come on the power play. Just because he did not showcase that for the Blues does not mean his power play abilities just vanished.
We also do not have enough of a sample size with the Blues to truly tell his effectiveness. As pointed out in Jim Thomas’ article, linked above, Faulk was not used on the power play. From Thanksgiving through the end of the regular season, Faulk failed to register one second of power play time in 19 games.
That’s fine in the regular season, but we continually saw the defensive deficiencies of Perron playing on the blue line. The Blues gave up so many shorthanded chances because Perron, or some other forward, failed to hold the puck at the blue line and the opponent went off to the races.
Say what you will about Faulk’s defensive abilities compared to some other defensemen in the league, but he’s still a defender. His tendencies are going to lean toward not making those same mistakes if he’s the last player instead of a forward.
Maybe you take off Bozak instead of Blais. Personally, I like Bozak’s ability to go to the front of the net, but these are not ideas set in stone.
Overall, you simply cannot be giving up shorthanded chances in the playoffs. Having two defensemen on, at least, one power play unit would be a check and balance against that.
You could even put Faulk on the top unit and move Perron down to the second. That would give you the option of keeping Tarasenko on the second unit without having to be the point man, which I have never agreed with.
Fans who dislike Faulk would surely be against that. Thankfully, they are not in charge.
Berube and staff will make the best decision. Using Faulk in a power play role again would be beneficial in more ways than one though.