The night started with Scottrade Center abuzz and cheering the return of long-injured Andy McDonald. It ended with a salute to the best performance of Alex Pietrangelo’s young career.
Pietrangelo scored twice, assisted on another, blocked a couple of shots, and was front and center in a terrific penalty kill as the St. Louis Blues dominated the San Jose Sharks 3-0.
There were worries beforehand that the Blues were going to be tired, coming off an overtime win over the Colorado Avalanche. But it was the Sharks who seemed lethargic while the Blues skated circles around them.
Concerns about an opposing power-play unit that had scored in five straight games and at a 46% clip during that time? The Blues laughed at it, equaling the amount of Shark power-play shots with their own short-handed attempts.
And at the center of it all was the 22-year old Russian defender. From his slap shot that wove its way under David Backes’ leg and past the helpless Antti Niemi to his dominance of the Joe Thornton line on even strength and being the center piece to the impressive penalty kill unit all the way to his final slap shot from near his own goal that tickled the twine of the empty net Pietrangelo was sublime.
Before the game, and certainly after he assisted on the opening goal, this story could and would have been about McDonald. But the terrific play of Pietrangelo necessitated a change.
While everyone was miffed, and rightfully so, that Backes was not an All-Star you can make an equal case that Pietrangelo was snubbed. He was emerged as the Blues top defense man and is a true, two-way threat. Tonight’s three-point haul puts Pietra at 17 points in his last 17 games, a great number for a forward, let alone a blue-liner.
As the Blues boys in the booth, particularly Darren Pang and Bernie Federko, continuously pointed out in the third period, Pietrangelo did more than what showed on the stat sheet. His puck movement, skating, passing, off-puck defense, and so on was all perfect.
Jaroslav Halak was very good, a 6th shutout against 25 shots, but many were from deep as the Blues kept the puck away from the net against the bigger, stronger Sharks. Credit again due to Pietrangelo.
With a road game against Columbus and home match-ups with the Islanders and Wild on the docket, St. Louis knew this was the biggest game in their near future and they played like it.
Energized by the return of Andy Mac, who provided an assist on the opener, and powered by the ever-better Pietrangelo, the Blues have won four straight, scoring three or more in each game. Offensive problems and trade needs what?