During the offseason, the St. Louis Blues lost former captain David Backes to free agency. That prompted a new era of leadership in the Gateway City as they gave the honor to Alex Pietrangelo.
He is only 20 games into his tenure as captain and has admittedly had his ups and downs.
Pietrangelo is an offensive-minded defenseman on one of the soundest defensive teams in the league. That is a conundrum, to say the least, but he has managed to make his style of play work for the Blues.
This season, the 26-year-old captain has three goals and five assists for eight points in 20 games. Three of those points have been scored while on the power play, which is an important role Pietrangelo plays for the team.
While on the power play against the New York Rangers in October, Pietrangelo was in the right place at the right time. He used his offensive skills to one-time a pass from Paul Stastny behind New York’s Henrik Lundqvist.
That play shows the offensive intelligence of the Blues’ captain, which is undeniably one of his best traits as a hockey player. Pietrangelo scored a total of seven goals last season and he is sitting with three less than halfway through the season. If he can maintain his offensive production throughout the remainder of the 2016-17 campaign, the Blues will undoubtedly be in a better spot considering they often struggle to score goals.
There was a rather lengthy stretch of games that saw no offensive production but defensive struggles from No. 27. He was scoring here and there, but most of the time he was on the ice for goals against, making his plus-minus a hefty minus-five.
For a team as defensive minded as the Blues, it is interesting to have an offensive defender like Pietrangelo. However, when he can use his defensive abilities to feed into his offensive ones, he is a dynamic player.
When that is not the case, though, the Blues are left with tough defensive plays while their captain is trapped in the offensive zone. One example of this was in a game against the Dallas Stars in which Pietrangelo did not make it back to stop the Stars’ defender from scoring on a rebound pass.
That was a game the Blues lost 6-2 (including an empty net goal), so it was not just Pietrangelo’s play that cost the team. He had a goal and an assist but still ended the night with a plus/minus of minus-two.
Hopefully, that time has passed and the team’s leader can move forward to a more defensively sound remainder of the year.
Every player in the NHL is going to have stretches of great play coupled with stretches of bad play. In this case, it happens to have occurred within the first part of the season for the new Blues captain.
Pietrangelo is by no means a bad player and although his offensive abilities sometimes inhibit his defensive play, St. Louis is generally able to recover. He is still a good player, but like anyone else on the Blues, he has things to work on.