Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo made the decision to leave the only franchise that he'd ever known when he inked a huge free-agent deal with the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2020 offseason.
Of course, he also held the distinction of officially being the first member of the St. Louis Blues to ever raise the Stanley Cup following their thrilling seven game victory over the Boston Bruins in 2019. And while it took a bit of time to formally adjust to his new settings, Pietrangelo soon fit right in.
“Playing in a new system is always different,” he said during an interview with The Athletic. “I pretty much played in a similar system for 10 years (in St. Louis), so it took time to adjust and I started to feel more comfortable with the way Pete (DeBoer) wants us to play on the back end as things moved on.”
However, his offensive production wasn't what he once enjoyed in St. Louis as he and his new squad raced through the shortened regular season en route to fourth consecutive playoff berth. However, he began to pick things up as the postseason approached, and appeared more like his trademark self once they actually began.
“I think being aggressive in our play in general as a team,” Pietrangelo said when asked what was different late in the season. “I think for me personally, maybe the last 10 games moving into the playoffs, trying to be more aggressive and trying to create a little bit more without sacrificing on the back end is something I can continue to do.”
Following a seven-game opening round series victory against the Minnesota Wild, Pietrangelo would be instrumental in helping to shut down the Colorado Avalanche’s top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.
“It’s obvious he’s an incredible talent,” said Alec Martinez, who played alongside Pietrangelo during the playoffs. “I think we complement each other well. We both have a similar outlook and understanding of the game and kind of how we wanted to play. He’s obviously an easy guy to play with. He makes a lot of plays. He’s a horse, he does everything.”
And following the departures of the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Reaves and Nick Holden during this offseason, Pietrangelo will have to tap more into the qualities that made him the easy choice to be named captain in St. Louis.
“It’s nice to make the conference finals,” Pietrangelo said. “I think all of us are proud of what we did this year, in a strange year. But there’s still a sense of disappointment when you don’t get to that goal, do what you want to do, and win. Was it a successful year in terms of getting to the conference finals? Sure, but I think we all feel like we fell short of our goal of winning.”