When the Blues traded Kevin Shattenkirk before the deadline last season, it would’ve been natural to wonder if the team’s scoring output from its defense corps would take a hit.
Through their opening two games of the new season, the Blues’ defense has had no trouble providing some offense. Following St. Louis’ 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars, five of the Blues’ nine goals on the young year have come from their defensemen.
Carl Gunnarsson started a first-period scoring barrage with a bit of help from the Dallas defense, as he pinballed the puck off a Star from behind the net to put the Blues on the board. Credited with the goal, it was Gunnarsson’s first since March 25h, 2016. Considering the critique that the Blues are occasionally too indecisive with the puck near the net, it was encouraging to see Gunnarsson throw the puck to the opposing crease, where good things can often happen.
Joel Edmundson didn’t wait long to join his fellow defender on the score sheet. Less than two minutes after the Gunnarsson goal, Edmundson ripped a wrister from the circle for his first goal of the season.
Blues coach Mike Yeo likes the aggressiveness he’s seen from his defensemen as they continue to play with an offensive mentality.
“We believe that we have a group of defenseman that can get involved,” Mike Yeo said. “They have the ability, and on top of that, the hockey sense to recognize when it’s there and not put us in a vulnerable position.”
Yeo’s belief in his group translates to the players having the confidence to keep making things happen in the offensive zone when appropriate.
“I haven’t got the red light yet, so…” Gunnarsson laughed. “If we keep scoring like that, I think we’re good to go, but you’ve got to pick your chances and not do it all the time.”
On another night of successful scoring from the men typically making their hay behind the blue line, the Blues' two defensemen most capable of adding offense were silent in the scoring column. Alex Pietrangelo—who scored in the season opening win at Pittsburgh—did show his skill Saturday with a pair of assists.
"I just think now that we’ve played the system a while through training camp, we are all working as a group of five,” Pietrangelo said. “We’re getting a lot of work in the offensive zone on the rush, and that’s what is creating our opportunities.”
With Shattenkirk in the picture, Pietrangelo’s role on the roster wasn’t necessarily as conducive to the strengths of his offensive game. Now Pietrangelo will have a full season to assert himself on the Blues top power play line, leading to more opportunities to contribute to the scoring—which showed up on an assist of Vladimir Tarasenko’s first goal of the year late in the contest.
The most lethal shot on the team might belong to Colton Parayko, who didn't contribute in the scoring Saturday, though he netted his first back in Pittsburgh to contribute to the d-men's five total goals. Saturday goes to show that even when it's not Parayko or Pietrangelo finding the back of the net, the Blues defenders still possess the ability to do so as a group. And that's a dangerous prospect for the opposition.
The sample size is only two games, but against the Penguins and Stars—teams widely expected to contend near the top of their respective conferences—the Blues have displayed a healthy dose of offensive firepower from a variety of sources.
As long as the defense continues to be one of them, the Blues scoring balance should put them in position for successful campaign.