There is no guarantee that a high degree of offense from the defense will help the St. Louis Blues win a Stanley Cup, but recent trends suggest it certainly is a contributing factor.
When the Chicago Blackhawks won the 2015 Stanley Cup championship, defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook combined for 10 goals and 32 points in 23 games. Keith had three goals and 21 points and Seabrook had seven goals and 11 points.
Defense scoring also helped the Los Angeles Kings win it all in 2014. Defensemen Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez and Slava Voynov contributed a combined 18 goals and 49 points in 26 games led by Doughty’s five goals and 18 points.
Still early in the second round of the playoffs, six of the Blues’ first 24 postseason goals were scored by defensemen. That included two each by Kevin Shattenkirk and rookie Colton Parayko and single goals from Alex Pietrangelo and rookie Joel Edmundson.
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Overall, Blues defensemen have contributed six goals and 19 points in nine playoff contests.
“We’re trying,” said Shattenkirk, who had four goals and 24 points in 36 career playoff games before Tuesday. “It’s been fun. I think we know how hard the checking goes up and how hard teams back-check in the playoffs. That’s what’s going to open up the top of the zone and the late defenseman joining the rush.
“It’s great that we’re capitalizing on it and staying with it.”
Pietrangelo, who has been one of the Blues’ top playoff performers, is never shy about moving up to join the play.
We’ve wanted our ‘D’ to be a big part of the offense the whole year. We’ve done that. Every night someone’s going to be a different hero. It doesn’t matter if it’s a forward or a defenseman, it seems like someone’s getting that opportunity.
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo
“I think it just adds another element to the offense,” he said. “We’ve wanted our ‘D’ to be a big part of the offense the whole year. We’ve done that. Every night someone’s going to be a different hero. It doesn’t matter if it’s a forward or a defenseman, it seems like someone’s getting that opportunity.
“As (defensemen) if we can get up the ice and create odd-man rushes to beat their pressure it’s only going to benefit us.”
Parayko and Edmundson each scored their first career playoff goals by being aggressive in the offensive zone.
“You see a guy like Joel Edmundson make that read last game, it’s a great play by him to see that space and go for it,” Shattenkirk said of Edmundson’s goal on Sunday in Game 2. “It shows that we’re not holding back either. We have to take our chances.”
Edmundson had only one goal in 67 games during the regular season, but was happy to contribute a little offense in the playoffs.
“I think it’s just a little more confidence for myself,” he said. “It was an easy goal to get because Brouw (Troy Brouwer) put it right on my tape and it was back door. It definitely helps for the confidence and I just want to keep that going.”
It’s been such a long time
Before Sunday’s Game 2 win at Dallas, the Blues had not won a second-round playoff game since a 6-1 win over Detroit on May 7, 2002. The Blues haven’t advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs since losing to Colorado in the 2001 Western Conference finals.
In 14 previous instances where they have split the first two games of a playoff series, the Blues have gone on to win only five of the 14 series.
STL Line still effective for Blues
Blues’ playoff scoring leader Vladimir Tarasenko and his “STL Line” including Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz were held scoreless for the first two games by Dallas. That doesn’t mean they weren’t effective, especially since Tarasenko’s extra effort drew a penalty that led to David Backes’ game-winning overtime goalSunday in Game 2.
“At this time of the year matchups are key,” Schwartz said. “It’s always a challenge. Vladdy’s in the top five in the legaue in goals, so that’s a guy that they circle and they want to take his time and space away.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re getting open for him and supporting, doing our part to get open for him.”
Schwartz doesn’t believe Tarasenko, who entered Game 3 with four goals and six points through nine playoff games, is the least bit frustrated. Neither is Schwartz, who had three goals and seven points through nine playoff games.
True to form, Tarasenko scored another goal in Game 3 that pushed the Blues’ lead to 4-1, also adding two assists.
“You want to make sure you’re doing other little things that can impact the game,” Schwartz said. “I think last game (Tarasenko) drew that penalty going to the net, so it’s something that a lot of people might not notice, but it ended up getting us a power play and we scored and won the game.
“There’s other things he can do that are going to impact the game and you’re going to need contributions from everyone at this time of the year.”
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock didn’t seem too concerned about a quick bounce-back by the line.
“I’ve seen a line that has high expectations and is learning how to play against extreme checking and getting better and better,” Hitchcock said. “These guys are learning that there’s a huge difference between regular season and the playoffs. I think they’re seeing that first-hand and they’re getting better and better because they’re getting used to how hard it’s going to be.
“There were times in the Chicago series, times in Game 1, where they were a little surprised. But I don’t think you’re going to see them surprised anymore. I think they’re ready for this now.”