(HockeyStL) -- When the St. Louis Blues traded defenseman Erik Johnson to the Colorado Avalanche it was a clear indication that Alex Pietrangelo would be the future force on the blue line.
In addition, the Blues acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in a trade for Eric Johnson last season and has proven himself to be one of the best two-way defenseman in the NHL.
Shattenkirk, 22, and Pietrangelo, 21, combined to score two goals and have a plus-six rating in a 6-4 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.
“I think they both have great puck patience,” head coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Their pulse when they have the puck is very low. They are able to make plays that most people get nervous. They don’t get nervous in high traffic areas with the puck and it helps us keep pucks in. When you count it up at the end of the day both of those young guys make very mature plays under pressure that most guys that are 26 and 27 make and that is what, to me, has accelerated the back end.”
The success that the defenseman have had this season may be a result of the “200-foot” game that Hitchcock has established since taking over on November 8.
“(Hitchcock) let’s us make plays certainly as (defenseman),” Pietrangelo said. “That all goes a long way with having forwards come back. If a forward is playing high and covering for us it allows us to step up and make plays. We can’t go in if they are not there. A lot of credit goes to our forwards.”
Pietrangelo, who has three goals in his last eleven games, scored the eventual decisive goal midway through the third period to propel the Blues to a victory and earning at least a point in six straight games. The former 2008 first round pick has also yet to record a negative plus-minus rating in the 18 games since Hitchcock joined the Blues.
Shattenkirk posted a team-best plus-four rating in the victory over the Jackets. In addition, Shattenkirk also put the Blues on the board 28 seconds after the Jackets took the lead in the first period on Sunday. It was the fifth goal of the season for Shattenkirk and his first since scoring one against San Jose on December 10.
“It has been a season where we have relied on our goalies because we have not been scoring as much as we would like,” Shattenkirk said. “(Crowd) was a major factor of what picked us up coming out and getting a goal early and getting them right back in the game is something that sparked us on the bench. They are kind of picking us up when we need it.”
Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo are tied for the most goals scored by a Blues defenseman this season with five goals each this season.
by Scott Bierman, HockeyStL