The playoffs set the stage for unlikely heroes, and also for superstars to be superstars. Sometimes, there are also those moments when someone more under-the-radar draws more mainstream attention.
Strangely enough, St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo‘s postseason work seems to fit in his larger story of an All-Star-level player whose strong play deserves more attention.
Through 15 games, Pietrangelo has two goals and 10 assists for 12 points. Jaden Schwartz (13 points) is the only player on the Blues who’s generated more, and Ryan O'Reilly (11) ranks as the only other St. Louis player in double digits.
Pietrangelo doesn’t overpower opponents like Brent Burns, but he’ll be a key part of the Blues’ efforts to win Game 3 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; stream here) in a Round 3 series that’s currently tied 1-1. Pietrangelo’s bringing potent offense and a capable possession game to the table, and Pietrangelo’s been a workhorse, comfortably leading the Blues in ice time with 25:35 minutes per contest.
And, hey, he’s bringing a fire to the ice, as you can see when he broke his stick following Logan Couture‘s shorthanded goal from the Blues’ eventual Game 2 win:
Circling back to Pietrangelo’s ice time for a minute, it seems like the rise of another defenseman is also helping him find another gear, as Pietrangelo’s rising with big blueliner Colton Parayko.
Earlier during Pietrangelo’s playoff career, he was probably called upon to do too much. Pietrangelo averaged more than 28 minutes per game during the Blues’ last two playoff runs, and Pietrangelo peaked at 30:15 minutes per night during the Blues loss in a six-game series against Chicago back in 2013-14.
As another strong right-handed defenseman, Parayko’s allowed the Blues to relax Pietrangelo’s minutes, and also his matchups. Checking Natural Stat Trick’s 5-on-5 numbers, Parayko was the one drawing Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin more often in the Stars series, and Blake Wheeler‘s line more often against Winnipeg. Those matchups have been a little more unpredictable so far against the Sharks, but it wouldn’t be one bit surprising if Craig Berube tries to deploy Parayko more in defensive situations and Pietrangelo more when there’s a scoring opportunity.
(Although the Sharks’ depth makes hard matching less lucrative – Tomas Hertl or Logan Couture is a pick your poison proposition – and Parayko can bring some offense to the table, too.)
Overall, the Blues have some issues. Their power play needs fixing. Jay Bouwmeester logging 22:37 per night in 2019 isn’t … ideal. And, even if everything is clicking, the Sharks are the type of opponent who can make strengths look like weaknesses.
Pietrangelo remains a difference-maker, whether people notice or not, especially when you can rotate him with Parayko, another defenseman worthy of greater recognition.
Game 3 of Blues – Sharks takes place on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN; stream here).