We are one week into the NHL season as of this writing and your St. Louis Blues are one of the league’s extremely pleasant surprises if you’re a local hockey fan.
The sky may not have been falling prior to the Note’s Oct. 4 season opener at Pittsburgh, but it was somewhat in decline with so many Blues skaters on the shelf. It wasn’t known whether they’d weather the injury storm well enough to stay afloat in a Western Conference guaranteed to be competitive through early April and beyond.
Would Jake Allen hold up? Would the team score in front of him? So far, so good on both fronts and a large reason why for the latter has been Alex Pietrangelo’s play, as has been recently well documented by our own Bernie Miklasz.
National pundits have noticed the captain’s early season heroics as well, as ESPN head NHL writer Greg Wyshynski recently sang Petro’s praises on The Kevin Wheeler Show.
“That was the worry for me at least…What were they going to end up doing offensively with a guy like (Robby) Fabbri out all of a sudden and it happening so suddenly?” Wyshynski said. “They’ve looked good on that end. Pietrangelo has not only been leading as captain, but leading by example with some great play so far.”
What’s been so impressive about Pietrangelo thus far are his contributions at both ends of the ice on both special teams and even strength. Our Blues insider Jeremy Rutherford chalks a lot of this up to the big defenseman becoming surer of himself.
“What I see as the difference with Alex Pietrangelo offensively is probably a little bit of a confidence situation,” JR recently told Bernie. “Here’s a guy who, even when he had playing opportunities three (or) four years ago, offensively he wasn’t hitting the net.
“I think that became a running story: This guy’s got to be able to hit the net. And he’s doing it now…I think he’s got more confidence. The team’s putting him in that situation and he’s executing.”
Indeed. Pietrangelo currently leads all NHL defensemen in points (6) and is tops overall in time on ice per game (27:02). Wyshynski says some of Petro’s strong 2017-18 emergence could be due to the Mike Yeo regime and how they’ve utilized him, but that this could be said for more than a few Blues.
“I think we also have to look at the big picture here and say that he’s not the only guy who decided to find his game after (Ken Hitchcock) left,” Wyshynski said. “I mean, Jake Allen became a completely different goalie when Hitch left. There’s a number of guys who I think really upped their games and played better after that coaching change was made.
“It could be the way he’s been utilized…It could also be the way a new voice can sometimes motivate you a little bit more than hearing the same one over and over and over telling you to practice too hard in November.”
And while it’s all fine and good to appreciate the Note’s quick start, it’s also important to realize it’s a small sample size and that the Vegas Golden Knights are also undefeated through three games. That’s not to say the good times can’t keep rolling as long Petro keeps leading by example, Allen continues stoning would-be scorers and guys like Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, Paul Stastny, Vladimir Sobotka and some guy named Tarasenko keep netting points.