The St. Louis Blues have been getting some impressive two-way production through seven playoff games from their second-year defensemen, Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.
Heading into Game 2 of the best-of-seven series with Nashville, Parayko had four points (two goals, two assists), is plus-7 rating in 24:10 minutes of ice time per game. Edmundson had five points (two goals, three assists), a team-best plus-11 in 21:22 minutes of ice time per contest.
“I think as you get older and (get) experience like we had last year, going as far as we did, you learn your game, you find everything real quick playing at that level,” Pietrangelo said. “Obviously Colton playing in the World Cup, too, was a chance for him to elevate his game and they’ve been nothing but fantastic here in the first little bit of the playoffs and throughout the year, and if we want to keep going, we need them to make an impact.”
Blues coach Mike Yeo said you can see the confidence and assertiveness in both of the 23-year-olds’ games.
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“I think a lot of it comes from reads too, understanding the game and the situation, both of those guys we count on to be strong defensive players and we count on them in shutdown-type roles,” Yeo said. “That means they have to have a real defensive focus in their game, but there’s going to be opportunities at times that present themselves to get up ice to get involved in the offense.”
Both players were thrown into action as rookies at the start of the 2015-16 season and were forced to grow up quickly. Parayko already has 187 NHL games (160 regular season, 27 postseason) played with the Blues, while Edmundson has 159 (136 regular season, 23 postseason).
Parayko, a 6-foot-6, 226-pounder with a heavy shot from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, was tasked with having to grow up fast at the NHL level.
“It’s one of those things where I’m young and able to learn a lot,” Parayko said, “and I want to try to grab as much as possible from these learning experiences when I have the time and the opportunity to because I think they are going to hopefully help me develop as a player and get me better.”
Parayko and Edmundson have learned plenty over their first two seasons and now both have elevated their games late in their sophomore seasons, a key component to the Blues’ post-Kevin Shattenkirk success and 5-2 start to the playoffs.
St. Louis’ young defensemen haven’t been acting like youngsters.
“I think everybody in the playoffs is going to have moments or dips or tough shifts but the biggest thing for me and the sign of a mature player is your ability to bounce back and your ability to come back the next shift and get back on top of your game,” Yeo said. “Every player up and down the lineup is going to make a mistake or a bad play over the course of a game but you can't turn one bad play or one bad shift into a bad game and they’ve done a good job of that.”