This story first appeared on Page 5 (The Five Hole) of the Nov. 30, 2019 edition of the St. Louis Game Time paper, sold outside of every Blues home game. For more information or to subscribe, email firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll bet that many of you, when the turkey leg talking stick arrived in your hands at the dinner table on Thursday, said you were thankful for the Blues and for the fact that they won the Stanley Cup. But winning the Cup was never an end in itself. The pursuit of it was a means to something bigger. The Cup — those moments and memories — was a way to deepen relationships with friends and family. So I hope you were thankful for them, too.
Five thoughts, from Alice’s Restaurant.
1. Robert Bortuzzo is a dirty player.
If that looks familiar, it is because he did the same thing to New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson a couple of years ago.https://t.co/8zxAPKdXT0— Adam Gretz (@AGretz) November 24, 2019
It’s ok, we can admit it without having to surrender our Blues Fan Cards or philosophically rescinding the memories he gave us last year in Games 2 of both the San Jose and Boston series.
There needs to be a certain level of physicality that goes with playing hockey. (Go watch an international game, with no hitting, on the big ice, and try to keep your eyes open.) But I wish the Bortuzzo suspension would’ve been 10 or more games, honestly, because neither of his crosschecks had anything to do with the game itself. It’s that gratuitousness we need to eliminate. Big hits that separate a player from the puck, or even violent crosschecks that eliminate scoring chances are ultimately ok — as long as they’re hockey plays.
2. “Sentences I never thought we’d see” for $400, Alex: Nashville is the Blues’ biggest rival. That won’t always be the case, and it’s easy to say in the aftermath of a heated, violent, home-and-home. But ask yourself: Who else flat-out annoys you as much as Nashville?
What other fanbase has such sophomoric chants? What other fanbase is so pompous as to call itself “Smashville?” I watched the Predators broadcast of Monday night’s game; even their damn announcing crew pissed me off. Willy Daunic, their play-by-play guy spoke in a monotone voice that was excruciating to listen to, and former Blue Chris Mason is the kind of color analyst who does nothing but regurgitate, in slightly different and usually more words, what the PBP guy just said (e.g. PBP: “An amazing play by so and so!” Color analyst: “That was … wow … just an incredible play by so and so right there.”)
Chicago isn’t going to be a meaningful threat in the Central for a while, and none of the other teams in the division register much hatred. So it’s Nashville.
3. Running the clock out is fucking disgraceful. Maybe it’s a silly thing to get worked up about, but in both games against the Predators, the Blues intentionally and pathetically drained the clock.
In Saturday’s home game, the Blues trailed by two when Vince Dunn picked up the puck behind his own net with 17 seconds left. He … just stood there? For real?? Obviously, the chance of scoring two goals in that little time was almost nonexistent — but it wouldn’t have been impossible. Monday’s nonsense at least had a sensible reason: Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester drained the last 22 seconds by playing tiddlywinks with the puck in their own zone, to ensure the Blues earned a point.
In basketball and football, sometimes coaches start walking toward each other for the postgame handshake even while there’s still time on the clock. But hockey is a superior sport. There’s a reason it was a big deal when Peter Laviolette’s Flyers stalled in their d-zone in 2011, to protest Tampa Bay’s 1-3-1 defense: Hockey is not supposed to have dead time. Fans pay for 60 minutes of hockey. I don’t blame Smashville (despite its dumb name) one bit for booing the Blues, and if I’d been in the building last Saturday night, I’d have booed them myself.
4. The two-minute-long two-man advantage the Blues scored on in Tampa was hardest on the goalie. It’s easy to see when defensemen and forwards are exhausted in the defensive zone, but goalies get tired, too. Brayden Schenn’s game winner on Wednesday was the direct result of Andrei Vasilevskiy being completely gassed: He had a chance to get to his feet, wasn’t quite quick enough, and Schenn took advantage. Brian Engblom said it well:
5. What I’m thankful for: A brief list.
Vladdy’s penalty-shot goal. Ivan Barbashev leading the playoffs in hits and scoring that empty-netter in Game 6 against San Jose. Tyler Bozak not getting called for tripping.
Charles Glenn and Jeremy Boyer. Jordan Binnington’s absurdly flexible right hip and his save on Joakim Nordstrom. That big, beautiful banner. My central nervous system, which somehow held up through an overtime and a half of Game 7 against Dallas. And, of course, all of you Game Time readers out there.
If you enjoyed this story — and even if you didn’t — you should check out my book, Ticketless: How Sneaking Into The Super Bowl And Everything Else (Almost) Held My Life Together.