Blues Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo Was Already Great…Now He’s Even Greater

It’s not that Alex Pietrangelo was looking for work, or needed to take some extra shifts. The Blues keep him busy.

I think his initials, AP, stand for “Always Playing.”

Since the start of the 2011-2012 season, the indefatigable Pietrangelo is 5th in total ice time among NHL defensemen. And over the last six-plus seasons Pietrangelo has clocked more minutes on the penalty kill than any league D-man.

Penalty killing is hard work, and Pietrangelo is always up for it. He never flinches at the challenge of being assigned to defend the opponent’s top player or No. 1 line. Since Pietrangelo’s first full season (2010-2011) the Blues are the best in the league at terminating the other side’s power play, with a kill rate of 85 percent. And the Note has given up  only 2.33 goals per game over that time, making them the second stingiest team in the league behind the LA Kings.

The strict goal prevention wouldn’t be possible without the omnipresent Pietrangelo logging a prolific number of minutes, shutting down skilled forwards, defusing short-handed emergencies, and transitioning the puck into the offensive zone.

The Blues captain shows the way in work ethic. But if we were thinking that it would be unreasonable and uncool to ask Pietrangelo to take on even more responsibility, we’ve seen him evolve into one of the NHL’s top offensive defensemen.

Pietrangelo always had the skill to impact the game as a scoring threat and playmaker. In his first seven seasons Pietrangelo has scored 10+ goals three times, and he finished among  the top 20 in points by a defenseman six times … rising as high as No. 5 in the league in defenseman points (with 51) back in 2011-2012.

Offense was part of the game for No. 27, but it wasn’t the priority. And Pietrangelo didn’t get a lot of power play time, not with Kevin Shattenkirk around as the right-handed quarterback piloting the PP. That changed when the Blues traded the offense-oriented Shattenkirk to Washington on Feb. 27 of last season.

You wanted more offense from Pietrangelo? Fine. He’ll give you more.

Plenty more. And probably more than you expected.

It helps that Blues coach Mike Yeo has encouraged Pietrangelo to go, go, go.

Former Blues coach Ken Hitchcock preferred to harness this thoroughbred defenseman.

I was tinkering with the stats on Wednesday morning, and I’ll share what I came up with.

These numbers show us how Pietrangelo has evolved since the Shattenkirk trade:

— In 24 regular-season games covering the final 20 contests of last season through the first five games of the new season, Pietrangelo has 7 goals and and 17 assists for 24 points.

– That’s a point per game average. No other NHL defensemen has averaged a point per game since Feb. 27.

— Pietrangelo is tied with Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman for the most points (24) by a defenseman since Feb. 27. But through Tuesday night, Hedman had played in one more game than Petro.

— Since the trade Pietrangelo ranks fourth among league defensemen with 72 shots on goal.

— As a side note, Shattenkirk has 3 goals and 15 assists for 18 points since the trade. Yes, Pietrangelo has more goals and assists than Shattenkirk since the trade.

— With Shattenkirk having moved on, now playing for the NY Rangers, Pietrangelo is receiving a much larger share of power play time. Over his three previous seasons Pietrangelo ranked 37th among  league defenseman in PP minutes. But since the trade, only three NHL defensemen have accumulated more PP time than than Pietrangelo. That would be Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere, Shattenkirk, and San Jose’s Brent Burns.

— Pietrangelo has 2 goals and 8 assists for 10 points on the power play since the trade; among defensemen only Hedman (12 points) and Shattenkirk (11) can top that. And Shattenkirk has played about four more PP minutes than Pietrangelo over that time

— When playing at even strength since the trade, Pietrangelo is tied for second among league defensemen since the trade with 5 goals and is tied for fourth with 9 assists.

— Since the trade, Pietrangelo’s 14 points at even strength rank No. 1 among league defensemen.

With Pietrangelo ramping up his offense, the other parts of his game are probably down a bit, right?

Heck no.

Pietrangelo is  +13 since the trade, which ties him for fifth among defensemen.

And he’s still the hard-working maniac that we’ve come to respect so much.

Since Feb. 27, Pietrangelo is a close second to Minnesota’s Ryan Sutter for overall ice time by a defenseman. Petro is averaging 26:40 in overall ice time per game, which is also second. He’s still performing heavy-duty cleaning on the penalty kill, standing sixth at the position in shorthanded minutes. Earlier we told you that Pietrangelo ranked fourth in power play minutes by a D-man. He;s also ninth in even-strength ice time.

After the trade, what do we have here in the updated version of Alex Pietrangelo?

Pietrangelo is one of the league’s best offensive-defenseman …  but still excels defensively.

A prominent asset and producer on the power play … but he still leads all Blues in PK time.

He can shut down the other team’s power play … and ignite his own team’s power play.

He is doing so much, his on-ice average per game during the Blues’ 4-0 start has jumped to 27:03, and that would be his highest average in a season.

This is a highly skilled worker that’s enthusiastic about doing manual labor.

A team leader.  All grown up.

What we’re seeing is a terrific, all-around 27-year-old defenseman in peak form.

Alex Pietrangelo  already was a great player. But he’s even greater now.

Thanks for reading …


More – Pietrangelo Steps Up: Three Takeaways from the Blues’ Hot Start