Chicago Blackhawks: St. Louis Shutdown, Part II

By Colin Likas

You won’t often see members of the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues working together, unless it’s in the NHL All-Star game or in a players’ union activity. But that doesn’t mean the teams’ fans can’t collaborate once in a while.

More From Blackhawk Up — Predicting The Blackhawks Lines In 2015-16

Blackhawk Up and Bleedin’ Blue, the St. Louis Fansided site, are working together on a look at the Blackhawks’ and Blues’ top forwards and defensemen, and how the opposition (the Blackhawks, in this case) can go about shutting them down. Kate Cimini has provided her take on which six forwards and four defensemen will grace the Blues’ top two lines and pairings in 2015-16, and I’ve offered the same for the Blackhawks.

But how can the Blackhawks shut down and take advantage of the Blues that Kate has chosen? That’s what I’m here to answer. Today we’re looking at the defensemen after touching on the forwards yesterday.

First, the defensemen Kate selected to fill out St. Louis’ top two pairings next season, and why she made those picks:

First pairing: Jay BouwmeesterKevin Shattenkirk

Why Bouwmeester: Bouw 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.

Why Shattenkirk: Shattenkirk’s your offensive defenseman, and he led the Blues in points during the postseason. He was on his way to a Norris-Trophy-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.

Second pairing: Chris ButlerAlex Pietrangelo

Why 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.

Why Pietrangelo: Pietrangelo plays a great shut-down role on the Blues, but his offensive talent and point 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 offensive action makes him an impressive figure on the ice.

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  • So, what do we do about this if we’re Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks? This is not the same type of discussion as we had yesterday regarding the shutting down of St. Louis’ forwards. While we want to shut down the Blues defensemen when they’re on the offensive attack, especially with weapons like Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo, our main concern here is deciding which Blackhawks forward units have the best chance to succeed against these pairings.

    The top two lines I sent Kate consisted of Teuvo Teravainen, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on No. 1, and Marko Dano, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane on No. 2. If the Blackhawks are at home and get the benefit of last change, I say we send these two lines out against the top Blues defensive pairings. Sure, you’re also going to want to get these six Blackhawks forwards out against whatever St. Louis rolls out on the third pairing (Carl Gunnarsson and Robert Bortuzzo, at this time), but you don’t always have that option, especially if minutes are constricted for the Blues’ third pairing.

    Size concerns are somewhat palpable with the Blues defensemen, as the four Kate went with are listed between 6-foot-0 and 6-foot-4 and weigh between 196 and 216 pounds, according to the Blues’ website. But it’s not as though the Blackhawks can’t overcome size concerns, right Anaheim? So send out Teravainen, Toews and Hossa against Butler and Pietrangelo, and deploy Dano, Anisimov and Kane against Bouwmeester and Shattenkirk.

    Here’s my reasoning. All three of the Blackhawks’ top line should be able to exploit Butler, who has some deficiencies on defense. He’s not an awful defenseman, but all three of Teravainen, Toews and Hossa would be able to work around or through him to create offense. Pietrangelo is the bigger of the two, but that shouldn’t be much of an issue for Toews and Hossa, who can bull their way past pretty much anyone and take the puck from pretty much anyone as well. Additionally, when Pietrangelo gets the puck moving the other way, Toews and Hossa would be useful in backchecking to prohibit him from setting up offensive plays for the Blues. Pietrangelo is more of an offensive threat than Shattenkirk, in my opinion, so putting the stronger defensive forwards on him makes sense.

    That leaves us with Dano, Anisimov and Kane against Bouwmeester and Shattenkirk. Bouwmeester is the biggest of these four St. Louis defensemen, but he isn’t necessarily fleet of foot. That makes him exploitable by Dano and Kane specifically. And Shattenkirk can get a little shotgunny, as we discussed yesterday with Trevor Daley. Such activity against this line would often be punished. As far as defending against these two when play goes the other way, keeping the puck away from Shattenkirk would be an advisable strategy. Bouwmeester has a shot but is not so offensively inclined as his proposed blue-line partner. Shut down Shattenkirk and you’ve mostly neutralized the defensive scoring threat with this unit.

    This really might not change that much when Ken Hitchcock gets last change during games at Scottrade Center, either. You’d believe he’d send these two pairings out against the Blackhawks’ top offensive threats as a means of neutralization. I can’t see him trusting Bortuzzo and Gunnarsson to shut down Chicago’s top six on a consistent basis, though Gunnarsson is a typically reliable piece.

    That’s all I’ve got for this segment. Share your thoughts on my lineup ideas in the comments section.

    Next: Blackhawks Flashback: Joey The Junior Reporter

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