Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blues' D contributing to the O

Blueliners come up with four big goals leading
to pair of wins over weekend, double season output

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues' defensive unit has been counted on for many things this season. And it was this unit -- despite the hit it took with injuries to Roman Polak and Barret Jackman -- that was a key contributor to becoming the league's stingiest defense through the first month of the season.

But through 17 games, the Blues had only gotten four goals from their blueliners, a number that coach Davis Payne surely would like to see go up.

After all, the back line contributed 33 goals a season ago and was among the league leaders in that category.

The Blues entered the weekend back-to-back home games against Ottawa and New Jersey on a five-game winless slide (0-4-1). But wins over the Senators (5-2) and Devils (3-2) came at the most opportune time.

And it was the d-men that provided key plays, not only defensively but offensively.

The defensemen doubled their goal total for the season with four big goals, two Friday (Carlo Colaiacovo and Eric Brewer) and two Saturday (Alex Pietrangelo and Brewer) that led to the big wins.

Dating back to the post-lockout year, the Blues got 29 goals from their d-men in 2005-06, 21 in 2006-07, 15 in 2007-08 and 2008-09 and jumped up to 33 a season ago.

Besides Erik Johnson, who tallied 10 goals a season ago, the Blues don't have that heavy goal-scorers from the back line, so it's a chip-in by committee factor that is what the team is counting on.

"Backhand production is critical in this league," Payne said. "It's critical in our success, whether that's on the rush or a secondary offensive chance. ... That's a five-man, 200-foot mentality where you've got to come up ice as hard as you come back.

"(Friday) night, we had a lot of D-to-D opportunity. (Saturday) night, we had to go strong-side, straight to the net. We get one off the back wall and it ends up as a goal."

So what was the difference this past weekend? Good bounces? Perhaps. Shot selection? Sure. High percentage shots? Definitely.

Whatever the case, the Blues will take all the goals they can get from their back six.

Colaiacovo leads the way with three goals, Brewer has two, Pietrangelo, Johnson and the injured Polak each have one.

"I think we're continuing to shoot the puck and get some good looks," said Brewer, who came into the weekend with no points. "We've really been working on that. I think we've done a reasonable job of it up to this point.

"I think you can never shoot enough personally, but I don't think we've been getting rewarded for a lot of that stuff that has been going on. The last few days, we have been. It just works out like that sometimes."

There were 23 points contributed to the Blues' scoring eight goals this past weekend. Nine of them came off sticks of the defensemen.

"The offense has been there the whole season," said Pietrangelo, who picked up his first goal of the season and second of his career. "I think just now, we're getting the bounces. Brew got one last game, he got one (Saturday). I just think right now, it's all coming together and we're getting the bounces."

If there's anything Payne will preach to his d-men when attacking the goal, it's to shoot the puck and shoot it as often as opportunities exist. Because when they do, it not only gives those guys chances to score, but others as well on tips, redirections and off rebounds.

"You just look at the percentages," Payne said. "Those guys keep shooting pucks from back there. If we're getting people to the net, it gets real effective."

Added Brewer, "The D have been up the ice and making a lot of good plays. ... We're working on it."

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