Defensive switch helps Blues even West final vs. Sharks
ST. LOUIS — With the game — and perhaps the season — in the balance, assistant coach Mike Van Ryn of the St. Louis Blues made a decision.
With the Blues battling with the Sharks in San Jose in Game 2 on Monday night, Van Ryn decided to tweak his defensive pairings. He put Alex Pietrangelo with veteran Jay Bouwmeester, the offensive-minded Vince Dunn with the powerful slap shot of Colton Parayko, and Joel Edmundson with fellow defensive stalwart Robert Bortuzzo.
So of course, it was Bortuzzo — a former Penguin — who scored the winning goal late in the second period off a nice give-and-go with Edmundson, propelling a 4-2 victory.
“I think Ryno did a good job there of just reading off of how we were feeling,” Edmundson said. “All six of us, we’re comfortable playing with each other. When he put me and (Bortuzzo) together, we kind of got excited. We like playing together. It was nice to get out there with Bobbo again, especially getting that goal and helping our team out.”
Bortuzzo became the fifth Blues defenseman to score in this postseason. More importantly, the Blues tied the Western Conference final 1-1 with Game 3 on Wednesday night in St. Louis.
Dunn also scored, and Edmundson had a pair of assists as Blues defensemen totaled five points in Game 2 and had a hand in all four goals. The Blues are tied for first with San Jose with 38 points from defensemen in the playoffs.
Blues coach Craig Berube said the defensive switches resulted from switching up the lineups on the power play.
“Sometimes that’s needed just to mix things up,” Berube said. “It could be matchup. It could be a number of different things. Our team understands that, and they know that things change during the game, but they don’t let it affect them. They stay with their game. They stay with the game plan. And they stay focused.”
Pietrangelo got an assist on Oskar Sundqvist’s goal in the third period to tie the Blues record for points by a defenseman in one postseason with 12 (two goals, 10 assists). Pietrangelo’s offense is expected — the Blues captain had 41 points in 71 regular-season games — but it is the scoring from the entire defense that has given the team a boost.
Edmundson has a goal and five assists in 13 playoff games after 11 points in 64 games this season. Bouwmeester has five points in 15 playoff games after 17 points in 78 regular-season games. And with a goal and an assist Monday night, Bortuzzo joined in after just 10 points in 59 games during the season.
“We want our ‘D’ to be active, and they produced for us all year and produced in the playoffs, too,” Berube said.