ST. LOUIS - Throughout the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, fans can point to plenty of key individual performances that have the Blues where they are today: tied 1-1 in the best-of-7 series with the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Brian Elliott's 44-save effort in Game 3 against Chicago. David Backes’ two overtime game-winners. Troy Brouwer’s third period goal in Game 7.
While it might not stick out when you think of the biggest playoff moments, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo might be having the best postseason of any Blues player so far.
“He’s always a good player," Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Petro is always a good player when the stakes are the highest. When the games mean the most, he has this ability when everything is on the line to be calm.”
The 26-year-old defenseman is averaging 30 minutes and 34 seconds of ice time per game in the playoffs, which leads all remaining players in the postseason. The last Blues defensemen to average over 30 minutes per game in the playoffs were named Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger.
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“I like having the opportunity to play on a big stage," Pietrangelo said recently. “I like being able to elevate my game. I’m just trying to do whatever I need to for these guys. Sometimes it’s hard minutes, but I’ll take that as long as it’s going to help us.”
Pietrangelo has one goal and five assists, which ranks fifth among playoff defensemen. Since the beginning of April, he ranks second on the Blues with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists).
“He’s our best defenseman, and the success we're having, he’s a big part of it,” said Jay Bouwmeester. “He plays in all different situations, some hard minutes. He’s a guy that seems to thrive with more ice time he gets. I think he enjoys the responsibility and I think he's done a good job.”
More of the same will be needed from Pietrangelo if the Blues are to beat the Dallas Stars in tonight's pivotal Game 3 at Scottrade Center. (8:30 p.m., NBCSN, Y98 FM). Like the Blues, the Stars showed some real resiliency in Game 3, erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period.
Fortunately, the Blues were able to get to their game in overtime and earn a split in Dallas.
“During a playoff game, there are always momentum swings. You’ve just got to trust the game plan and trust what you’re doing,” Blues forward Jaden Schwartz said. "We bounced back and that was big, so hopefully we can continue that momentum tonight. It's just a matter of not getting too high and too low."
“It seemed like we were clicking on all cylinders,” Pietrangelo said. “A couple of mistakes here and there and we were tied, but I thought we got back to our game in overtime. We’re at our best when we're on the attack, we're at our best when we're playing in their zone. We let our foot off the gas. We addressed it (Monday) and we can't let it happen again."
No lineup changes are expected for tonight, so here’s what we anticipate for Game 3:
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Robby Fabbri - David Backes - Patrik Berglund
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Backes is the second player in Blues history to score two overtime goals in the same playoff season, joining Pierre Turgeon, who also did it in 1999. Backes’ goal on Sunday was the first playoff overtime power-play goal in Blues history.
The Blues penalty kill is a perfect 7-for-7 in this series against the Stars.
Vladimir Tarasenko has advanced to the second round of the NHL 17 Cover Vote and is facing off against Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn this week. To vote, visit NHL.com/covervote or use #NHL17Tarasenko on Twitter. Hashtag votes will count twice on Thursday.
The Plaza Party outside Scottrade Center begins at 5 p.m. tonight and features live music from Carrie & the Catapults beginning at 6 p.m. The pregame rally will also include appearances from Louie and Blue Crew, chances to win great prizes and food and drink available.
Volunteers will be selling Moose-themed beads on the concourse and outside Section 114 for $3 each or two for $5. Proceeds will benefit Girls on the Run.