Friday, February 28, 2020


Thomas recounts, laughs off missed empty-net goal since it came in a win; 
Bortuzzo pitches up up top; Scandella fitting in perfectly; Dunn's goal celly 

ST. LOUIS -- Robert Thomas could easily smile about it the next day.

But arguably the easiest opportunity for him to score a goal came Thursday night against the New York Islanders in the third period, but had it not been for a comeback and win in overtime, 3-2, Thomas would have had a different mood about it following an optional practice Friday.

Thomas had a wide open cage staring at him, following a feed from Oskar Sundqvist, with 15:43 remaining in regulation and the Blues trailing 2-1 at the time.

The puck seemed to get caught up in his skates and stick at the same time and Thomas pushed the puck wide of the goal as play continued and he looked up momentarily as if to say, 'How did I miss that?'

"Yeah, I mean, it doesn't get much easier than that," Thomas said. "That was kind of the look on my face.

"[Sundqvist] could only put it through that lane to get it to me backdoor and kind of got stuck between my stick and my skate. It just kind of glanced off both of them and went through the crease."

The Blues would eventually tie it on Vince Dunn's goal with 1:44 remaining before Colton Parayko finished it at 3:23 of overtime.

"Some nights, it doesn't seem to go your way," Thomas said. "It is what it is. It would have stung a lot more if we would have lost the game, but since we won, it kind of makes it all fun and games.

"Sunny and Barby were giving it to me after the game about that one. I'm sure if we lost, it wouldn't be as jokingly as they did. It's all fun and games now."

* Up front Bobbo? -- On normal occasions, Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo won't be mistaken for who he is and what position he plays.

Thursday was the exception to the norm, as Bortuzzo was asked to work out of his element and comfort zone against the Islanders.

Bortuzzo only played 4:07 for the game, but he did so as a forward with the Blues going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in the game,

Blues coach Craig Berube made one concession.

"I thought I should have used him more, and I didn't," Berube said. "That's my fault."

Bortuzzo finished the game with two shots on goal, a blocked shot and two hits in just seven shifts. He didn't play the third period with the Blues chasing the game.

"It was a different experience playing," Bortuzzo said. "I enjoyed it, it was fun, tried to do the right things. Got to play with some very intelligent forwards that made it easy in the few shifts that I had. 

"Yeah, (surprised) a little bit when I was asked. I had a feeling I'd be doing some penalty killing, defensively, which I did get out there for the one PK. We didn't take too many penalties, kept those down, but I would have been happy to do that at the same time. It was exciting. It would be hard-pressed to find any d-men that wouldn't be excited to try it for a game."

Berube inserted Bortuzzo for Sammy Blais (healthy scratch; more on that below) in hopes of adding Bortuzzo's physicality and work on the PK, but the Blues had to kill only two penalties and made player management a bit more tougher.

"It's not that bad to be honest with you," Berube said. "If there would have been more penalty kills, he would have been out there more. Also, if there's more special teams, he would have got out there more because guys on the power play on defense and penalty killing, he would have got some shifts on D but there wasn't, so the ice times were all manageable on the back end. He was fine up front. I thought he did some good things. I can always pop a winger or anybody down there and fill that role. They want more ice time. I can spread it out, which I did last night. I used a bunch of different guys with 'Sunny' and 'Barby,' whether somebody went in the middle of Thomas and took a shift or two in the middle, [Tyler] Bozak, different guys on the wings. Guys like it."

Bortuzzo conceeded that he's played forward "One shift maybe two years ago. Other than that, maybe summer ice." But all in all, he was willing to help any which way possible.

"I think they had an idea I knew what I was doing, knew which places to go," Bortuzzo said. "DIdn't get a chance to play any d-zone, which is always a good thing, but I felt like I would have been pretty comfortable down there. The bench was having a pretty good time with it. I was sucking wind there after I got that backhand shot on net. I think they all enjoyed that, as they tend to do any time I do something offensive. It was fun. I thoroughly enjoyed every shift.

"We're in all these meetings together as a group. When they're talking forward stuff, you're paying attention. I had a good idea of what to do out there. I was going out there with 'Barby' and 'Sunny,' they made it easy and then 'Bozie' and 'Steener,' some veteran guys who made it easy, put pucks in good places that allowed me to forecheck I tried to get some hits in. They did a nice job."

Bortuzzo said he's ready to step in again in whatever role is needed, but a defenseman by trade, probably best to utilize him in that role.

"Anything we can do that they think I can contribute with ... if two goalies go down, I'd happily jump in net if they needed that, EBUG situation or whatever," Bortuzzo said.

* Blais a healthy scratch -- Blais was on the ice as part of 11 skaters for an optional skate working to get back on the coach's good side.

With some mystery as to why Blais was held out of Thursday's game, Berube offered the insight.

"I want him to play better, yeah," Berube said of Blais. "He's got to play better and he's got to do things better. He's got to be structurally better. He needs to play better.

"When he first came back from the injury, these guys that come back after long layoffs, they have good energy  when they come back and they're excited to be back and it's rah rah rah, go go go. That wears off. It's worn off for him and he's got to just get his game back. What makes him a good player?"

Blais' ice time in the past four previous games he played went from 13:04 to 11:30 to 9:40 to 8:46.

Blais missed 28 games with a wrist injury and has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 34 games. 

"For me, Sammy's got to be a straight-line player," Berube said. "He's got to get into the offensive zone and get the puck. That's his game. When he has the puck in the offensive zone, he's a dangerous player, moving in, hanging onto it, things like that. He's a good player that way, but when he doesn't have the puck, he's got to have more structure in his game."

* Scandella fitting in -- Not only is new Blues defenseman Marco Scandella fitting in and winning over droves of Blues fans, but he hasn't been a part of a loss since his arrival.

The Blues acquired Scandella the day they began their six-game winning streak and he's played in the past five games. 

Scandella, who has an assist and is a plus-6 in five games since arriving from Montreal, saw his minutes increase each game except for Thursday, and that's because it was a game the Blues were chasing throughout.

"He's in a shutdown role with Parayko," Berube said. "They go against one of the top lines on the other team. He's a big guy that closes plays out. His gaps have been really good, his stick's been really good, and we need him to be good on the penalty kill. With [Jay] Bouwmeester out, we needed a lefthander over there on the penalty kill."

Scandella's minutes per game have gone from 19:24 to 20:49 to 21:31 to 22:02 to 16:42. He's fit in as well as can be, probably even shocking the coaches as to how quickly he's fit in.

"You don't know that. When he got here, just his personality for me, it would be easy for him to fit in the locker room here," Berube said. "He's a real personable guy, outgoing, has a lot of energy and life to him, so that's a good thing. He takes it on the ice. He plays with energy out there and life. That's what's needed, so he fits in pretty well with our guys."

* Dunn' celly -- When Dunn scored against the Islanders Thursday, he dropped down to a knee and fed off the crowd with a double-fisted celebration pump.

It was Dunn's first goal in 19 games and came at an opportune time that lifted some of the burden of not scoring off his shoulders.

Dunn's last goal came Jan. 11 against the New York Rangers.

"I don’t usually do that but I was just hoping that we could win the game or at least hold on to the tie for the third period there. I just got a little excited," Dunn said. "I’ve had a lot of chances this year, they just haven’t gone in. That’s how it is sometimes. To see 'Faulker' [Justin Faulk] last game, it was kind of weird shot that goes in for him, and he’s had a lot of good chances too. Sometimes it’s not the Grade A chance that goes in. It’s one that maybe you don’t think is going to go in ... you’re just trying to get pucks on net. Everyone’s trying to score here, sometimes bounces just go your way."​

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