You haven’t been paying attention lately if you aren’t seriously concerned about the St. Louis Blues defence. When the season started, everyone was excited. The Blues brought back almost all of their Stanley Cup champion defencemen except for Joel Edmundson, who they traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for the supposed new and improved model Justin Faulk. Supposed being the operative word. He hasn’t quite lived up to that potential yet and neither have some of the other St. Louis Blues defencemen, especially Vince Dunn. The Blues as a whole are struggling with injuries and defensive errors are making it worse.
The Blues have lost three of their last five games. The goaltending has been struggling too, but Jordan Binnington led the team to a win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night and a comeback win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night. The Blues have given up 18 goals in the past five games. A lot of those goals against have been from defensive turnovers and careless mistakes.
The Blues are still in first place in the Western Conference and fourth place in the NHL behind the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, and New York Islanders. So, there isn’t much to worry about now, but if the Blues keep up the pace that they have the past four games, there will be issues.
Justin Faulk‘s Struggles
It almost always takes new players time to adjust and build chemistry with other players. It happened last year with forward Pat Maroon, but look how that turned out. Can Justin Faulk become a St. Louis hero too? That’s probably asking for too much. A couple more realistic questions: can he start producing offensively and could he finish the season with more points than Edmundson?
Justin Faulk is known for being an offensive defenceman, while Edmundson is not. He won the Calder Trophy in 2011-12 for being the rookie of the year. In his best offensive season in 2014-15, he had 15 goals and 34 assists for 49 points. In 593 career games played, he has 87 goals and 180 assists for 267 points.
But this season, Faulk has just two goals and seven assists for nine points in 34 games for the Blues. He is on pace to have one of the worst offensive seasons of his career. He needs to pick up the pace in the second half of the season if he hopes to play better than Edmundson is playing in Carolina. That’s right, Edmundson already has three goals and six assists for nine points in 33 games for the Hurricanes. He’s on pace to have the best offensive season of his career. He’s only eight points away from his career-high of 17 points that he set with the Blues in 2017-18.
Defensively, Faulk has a 49.6% Corsi this season, which is down from his career Corsi of 52.4%. He’s averaging 20:10 of ice time this season. He has 23 giveaways compared to his 13 takeaways.
Comparably, Edmundson has a 50.7% Corsi this season, which is very close to his career Corsi of 50.8%. He’s averaging 18:28 of ice time this season. He has 15 giveaways compared to 11 takeaways. While he does have less ice time, giveaways are a big problem with Faulk.
Vince Dunn‘s Struggles
What’s interesting about Blues fans complaining about Dunn’s play lately is that he is actually playing a little better than Faulk. They have the same number of points with eight, but Dunn’s Corsi is 54.1% and he only has 18 giveaways. Although, he is only averaging 16:10 minutes a game so if he played the same amount of time as Faulk, their numbers would likely be evener.
It’s obvious that they both need to improve. One of the ways that can happen is if they are not put on the same line together. The defensive pairings have been mixed up lately due to injuries to Carl Gunnarsson, who was just put on injured reserve and the suspension of Robert Bortuzzo. But putting them together is a recipe for disaster, at least until they both get better. If the defence doesn’t start improving soon, the Blues are going to have a tough time keeping their spot atop the West.