Who knew that Robert Bortuzzo was such a controversial figure?
If you were following along with the Game Time twitter account this past Wednesday night, you know that I asked Blues broadcasters Darren Pang and Kelly Chase who they would trust to cook the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. While Pang was confident that Bortuzzo was the selection, Chase relegated him to picking up ice on the way over.
When asked about the turkey, Kelly Chase did not hesitate. “Me. I’m a great fucking cook,” said Chase, before settling on Kevin Shattenkirk.
“I know who I’m not going to go with,” Pang said. “No way for [Jaden Schwartz], not a chance.
“[Bortuzzo]’s gonna cook the turkey. He’s gonna cut the turkey and he’s gonna do it with a big apron on, and maybe a chef’s hat. And the chef’s hat is gonna be a little crooked, too. I think he has that background. He can do it. He can pull it off.” Ice duty? Scottie Upshall. “He’ll be the fluff and the guy that does everything. He’ll serve the wine.”
Unfortunately for the Blues, most of the team was the fluff on Wednesday night. Coming off a big win in Boston on Tuesday, it would be fair to say that many people were skeptical that the same level of intensity would carry over. Indeed, the Blues took four penalties in the game’s first 16:35, and while they killed three of them, they also only managed two shots on goal for the period. This contributed greatly to breaking up the flow in a way that, pregame, Pang indicated would be a sign of trouble.
“I don’t think the Blues can start off the way they did last night [Tuesday, in Boston] and expect to only be down 1-0. That was a blessing and that was thanks to the goalie,” Pang said. While the team did escape the first with only a one-goal deficit, the pace of play made it clear that the Washington lead was likely to grow. Pang’s continued description of what the Blues look like when playing poorly would describe later events perhaps better than anyone could else could describe.
“When the Blues are in trouble or not playing well, it’s usually because they’re a little lackadaisical with loose pucks. They make little heel to toe backhand saucer passes in their own zone. They try to play kind of a cute game, and it usually burns them.”
The breakout and the offensive zone play was littered with examples of this throughout the evening. Jori Lehtera had a particularly egregious turnover in the second period that almost certainly brought forth groans of frustration from interested parties everywhere, and the Blues were extremely hesitant in their defensive play.
Alexander Ovechkin is one of the premier goal scorers in the NHL, and he will make any team that plays him soft pay dearly.
He now has six goals in his last two games against the Blues, and 11 in his last 7. Playing in the second game of a back to back, Carter Hutton came up with some remarkable, standout saves against both Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky, but Ovechkin was able to pour in three goals from his familiar faceoff dot office with a lethal combination of pinpoint accuracy and overwhelming force.
While their own play left much to be desired, a combination of zealous officiating and the Capitals’ own mistakes did create some offensive opportunities. The Washington penalty kill displayed some weaknesses that, unfortunately, the Blues were largely unable to exploit. Evgeny Kuznetsov contributed a goal and an assist and played what Washington Post columnist Isabelle Khurshudyan described as his best game of the year. He also kills penalties, and was severely lacking in that department. Several times, he could be seen drifting toward a Blues puck carrier in the corner or on the half wall, leaving Colton Parayko available to unleash a rocket that never seemed to come.
Parayko was playing in his 100th NHL game and did contribute an assist to Alex Pietrangelo’s power play goal that cosmetically trimmed the deficit late in the third period. Parayko has yet to score on 56 shots in 21 games so far this season, but his defensive play has continued to improve. He remains one of the most valuable players on the ice for the Blues, and one of the few who has not had a somewhat disappointing start to the season.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored his second goal of the game late and was subsequently dumped into the boards from behind on a dangerous shove by Nicklas Backstrom. Regrettably, no teammates came to his aid, and that lack of accountability seemed to shine through in the postgame.
The Blues locker room was closed for an unusually long amount of time postgame (I missed the first elevator down, and that usually means I’m going to be late getting in), and when the doors opened, there was a disappointing lack of personnel willing to stand accountable for a lackluster effort. A large amount of credit should be given to Hutton and Kyle Brodziak for being willing to answer questions, and a similar amount of skepticism perhaps ought to be directed at a so-called leadership group which was nowhere to be found when reporters were in the room.
Taking two of four points from two challenging and heavy East Coast opponents can perhaps be characterized as holding par, but the team’s play on the road continues to display reasons for concern. If the Blues are planning to turn the corner and return to the ranks of the true contenders, they would be well served to heed Pang’s advice and commit to a consistent, unyielding, structured effort. And see you next time from a press box not in St. Louis.