Depth steers Blues into winning ways

Depth steers Blues into winning ways

Credit: Getty Images

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 25: Alex Pietrangelo #27 of the St Louis Blues during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on March 25, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Blues defeated the Coyotes 4-0. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)


by Scott Bierman / HockeyStL

Posted on January 30, 2013 at 3:32 PM

Updated Saturday, Oct 26 at 7:44 PM

(HockeyStL) -- If you take a quick look at the Blues lineup you would have a difficult time finding any holes in it.  Its depth is one reason why the Blues have the third most points in the conference.

Sixteen players on the roster have registered at least one point and, of those players, 12 have registered two or more points through the first six games this season.

“I haven’t looked at everyone’s rosters, but we’re definitely a very deep team -- more deep than, I’d say, in the past,” T.J. Oshie said.  “We got one, two, three and four waves of forwards going at them that can all put the puck in the net and that can all play defense.”

Oshie, who scored the game-winning goal against Nashville on January 24, has posted five points (three goals, two assists) in six games. 

He has also been a major factor in jump-starting the top line which includes David Backes and David Perron.  Backes has posted two points, both assists, in two of the last three games and Perron has poured in five points (two goals, three assists) in the last two starts.

“The (Alex) Steen line was hot out of the gate, now the Backes line is starting to score points, we’re getting it from the back end (of the lineup),” Ken Hitchcock said.  “I think the biggest thing for us is that we’re getting more production from our back end than anyone imagined and that has allowed us to win some of these close games.”

The back end for the Blues consists of two of the top defenseman in the league.  Kevin Shattenkirk, who is tied for the team lead in points, leads all NHL defenseman with eight points (eight assists) and Alex Pietrangelo is only one point behind.

Hitchcock credits the point surge by the defense to the team’s ability to pursue the puck in the offensive zone.  The strong pressure has allowed the defense to be more engaged with the opposition on its heels.

“With the talent that our forwards have, if we can chip in from the ‘D’ side it’s obviously going to make it a lot easier on everybody to get them moving forward.  If we can contribute from the back end it’s always a plus,” Pietrangelo said.

Through the first six games, the Blues have averaged nearly four goals scored per game while pressuring teams with four lines of forwards that are considered to be consistent with one another. 

“We don’t score the cute and fancy goals,” Hitchcock said.  “We get a lot points and a lot of goal scoring opportunities by wearing people out with our size and weight.

“Scoring four goals a game is a pretty high in the league.  Everyone expects if you get to three you’re doing pretty well.  I think it’s like everything else -- the goals against average always starts off higher than it should be and the goals for always starts off higher and then you find that medium ground where it equals out.”

The goals against isn’t necessarily terrible for the Blues, but allowing more than two goals a game is an area the teams wants to fix.

“Our goals against average is too high and our goals for is high and that’s what allowed us this one-goal win,” Hitchcock said.  “On average, they’re both a little high.  We’d love to stay at four (goals for), but we got to get it under on the goals against.  We’re making too many big errors in our own zone.  As time goes on if we don’t correct those errors it’s going to catch up to us.”

After allowing seven goals in the last two games, Hitchcock noted the goalies have looked sharper this week in practice.  He also referred to this point of the season as the end of training camp -- teams usually play six exhibition games camp prior to start the season.

The Blues will travel to play the Blue Jackets in Columbus Thursday night.