Avalanche Defense: How They Match vs St. Louis Blues


The Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues — a little like the Hatfields and rotten eggs. Sometimes, it seems like the two teams just don’t match up, and the results can be both ornery and stinky.

The St. Louis Blues are a big, physical, puck possession team. It often falls to the defense to try and sort them out. Considering the Avs only went 1-2-2 last season against the Blues, it feels as if the Avalanche defense did not sort them out.

That’s not entirely fair, and it’s not likely to be true anymore. The Avalanche definitely got bigger and meaner on the blue line. Let’s see how that fact can stack up against the St. Louis Blues.

Thanks to Kate Cimini of Bleedin’ Blue for insight into the St. Louis Blues.

Colorado Avalanche Defensive Pairings

We won’t know until opening night what the defensive pairings are likely to be for the entire season — and maybe not until a couple weeks into the season for sure. However, for right now the proposed top pairings are the following:

Erik JohnsonFrancois Beauchemin

Tyson BarrieNikita Zadorov

Avalanche execs went out and signed Francois Beuchemin as a partner for the cornerstone of the Avalanche defense, Erik Johnson. Beauchemin excelled at the Anaheim Ducks’ puck possession and physical game. He’s more of a stay-at-home defenseman.

Erik Johnson, of course, is a premier two-way defenseman with a mean streak. He’s big, he’s fast and he likes to hit. He possesses a bomb of a shot from the point, but he also likes to bank a shot off the boards for a forward to get the rebound.

Nikita Zadorov was part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade. He’s big, he’s mean, he hits. He’s not very offensive, in the goal-scoring way, but he likes to get physical. I suspect he’s going to be Barrie’s protector: “You touch Barrie, you get Big Z.”

Tyson Barrie, naturally, is a classic offensive defenseman. He’s still young, but he’s the Avs’ clutch player. The higher the stakes, the more he excels.

St. Louis Blues Defensive Pairings

According to Kate, the top defensive pairings for the Blues are the following:

Jay BouwmeesterKevin Shattenkirk

Chris ButlerAlex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester is a great shut-down defenseman, who can outskate almost anyone. He’s got a strong sense of the way the wind is blowing and rarely, if ever, gets caught out of position. He has tremendous stamina and can eat up minutes like nobody’s business.

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Kevin Shattenkirk is an offensive defenseman, one who led the Blues in points during the postseason. He was on his way to a Norris-caliber season when injury took him down in February, but when he came back it was almost as if he’d never left. He’s got a quick shot that can find its way through traffic and a fearlessness about him born from good hockey sense. He’s great at outlet passes and transitions the puck well, and while his size isn’t tremendous, he’s strong and fearless on the ice.

Kate once remarked to me that Shattenkirk is very popular among fans, but that he does have “an unfortunate hair situation.”

Alex Pietrangelo plays a great shut-down role on the Blues, but his offensive talent and points production is right up there with Shattenkirk’s. He’s aggressive, plays a great two-way game and is very physical, laying hits that can knock an opponent off the puck. That, combined with his ability to quarterback the play makes him an impressive figure on the ice.

Kate said of Chris Butler:

"“I’m going out on a limb here with Butler, I admit, but if he plays up to his potential, he could prove an interesting partner for Pietrangelo. He’s speedy and skates well, and his puck-movement is strong. He’s more than capable of taking long shifts and his size is a plus against opponents.”"

Avalanche Defense vs the St. Louis Blues

In yesterday’s post, we looked at the top six from the St. Louis Blues.

Jaden Schwartz-Paul StastnyDavid Backes

Alexander Steen-Jori LehteraVladimir Tarasenko

The Johnson-Beauchemin pairing is the grittier of the two for the Avs, and they should make a good showing against the Lehtera line. Steen is a two-way player “who makes big bodies look foolish” according to Kate. Well, Johnson is a gifted two-way defenseman with a big body — and it rarely looks foolish. Steen’s a wizard on skates — Johnson’s a condor. Steen doesn’t mind getting physical. Both Johnson and Beauchemin enjoy the physical game.

Lehtera and Tarasenko have good chemistry. However, between Johnson’s skating and both his and Beauchemin’s positioning prowess, they should be able to disrupt the two.

As a bonus, Johnson can score — in fact, he earned an impressive five points against his former team last season, three of them goals.

Barrie and Zadorov should also pair well against Stastny’s line. Schwartz is small, speedy and skilled. So’s Barrie. Backes is big and aggressive. So’s Zadorov — bigger and more aggressive, actually. In fact, I’m hoping Backes tries something with Barrie as he did with Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene in previous years. I’d enjoy watching Big Z give him a Zads Smash.

Stastny’s a solid two-way player, and neither of those defensemen is that. However, Stastny is neither a great skater nor a physical player. It’s likely he’ll manage the quiet mediocrity he did for so long as an Avalanche.

So, Avs Nation, which match ups are you most looking forward to seeing against the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche defense?

Next: Avs Top 6 Ready for the Blues

Next: TBT: EJ's First Avs Goal

Next: Division Rivals: Avs vs Blues

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