Looking for more of an offensive look from the defense, the St. Louis Blues’ only lineup change Monday for Game 6 against the Dallas Stars was inserting Robert Bortuzzo on defense in place of rookie Joel Edmundson.
Bortuzzo was paired with veteran Kevin Shattenkirk, who switched from his normal right-side spot to the left in the Stars’ 3-2 victory that forced Game 7 on Wednesday in Dallas..
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said he valued Bortuzzo’s ability to attack more in this situation than Edmundson’s traditional defensive approach.
“Bortuzzo is an attacking player,” Hitchcock said. “He’s good at joining the rush and making plays from the red line in. Eddie’s (Edmundson is) more of a defending player. A stay-at-home kind of guy.”
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Bortuzzo picked up an assist on Alexander Steen’s goal in the second period Monday.
The old Hitchcock of the 1999 Stanley Cup championship team era in Dallas might have always have valued defense over offense, especially in the playoffs.
Not this time.
“I don’t think much has changed,” Hitchcock said. “I had a bunch of old farts in Dallas and I had no choice. We counter-attacked. The game’s changed now. You can’t play the game on three-quarter ice, you have to play on your toes.
“The only way to play defense is to occupy the offensive zone. You can’t play defence counter-attacking or backing up. There are no hold ups anymore, per se.”
Hitchcock said the Blues are different than the ’99 Stars, but the entire league has changed a lot since then.
“In Dallas we had such a high hockey IQ, we could wait it out,” he said. “We had patience. We trusted the fact that we could wait you ‘til the 55th minute and beat you. You can’t play that way anymore. You’ve got to go for it.
“We’re not going to add a bunch of goofy risks, but we’ve got skating people right now.”
Hitchcock said the Blues’ ability to quickly ignite a transition game - and get the puck out of danger in their own end - has been a huge help.
“Our feeling is it’s a skating series,” he said. “We need to have as much puck control as we can; numbers on attack. We’ve probably got to add a little bit of risk to our game if we’re going to be better offensively.
“We think we’ve got to create more scoring chances. We’re going to add as many attacking, or in Jaskin’s case, puck control people as we can.”
Bortuzzo was playing in his fourth playoff game and first since Game 6 of the first-round series against the Blackhawks. He definitely didn’t mind skating alongside Shattenkirk.
“Throughout the year, we’ve kind of played with everyone as a d-corps,” he said. “Everyone’s kind of familiar with each other and that comfort factor is definitely there. Shatty’s a world-class player and I’m sure he’s going to make it easy on myself.”
Jaskin’s in again
After not playing for a month, Jaskin returned for the Blues in Game 5 and rewarded Hitchcock’s decision by scoring a goal. It wasn’t just any goal, it broke a 1-1 tie and proved to be the game-winner in a 4-1 victory.
“That really helped me,” he said of the goal. “It was a really important goal and it just happened, I didn’t really think about it. Let’s do the same thing today, maybe I’ll get another one.”
It was Jaskin’s first game since April 7, a regular-season contest against the Blackhawks. He slumped from 13 goals in 2014-14 to four goals and 13 points in 65 games this season, but came up with a big goal when the Blues needed it most.
His phone was overflowing with texts and voicemails after Saturday’s performance.
“They were happy and I’m happy that I can make them happy,” he said Monday morning before Game 6.
Jaskin wants to make the most of his opportunity. He’s filling a spot where the Blues have used Ryan Reaves and Steve Ott previously.
“Just do the same thing, use as much (time) as I can get,” Jaskin said. “It doesn’t matter how much you play, you’d better use it 100 percent.”
Jaskin thinks he may play even better after shaking off the rust in Game 5.
“It’ll be better. I know what to expect now,” he said. “I knew, but it’s always hard after a month of not playing to get in the game mode and the tempo. It’s tough ... it’s painful but I wait for a chance and I get it. Now I just have to use it and prove that I have to stay in the lineup.”
Bishop strong again for Lightning
Former Blues goalie Ben Bishop has the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals once again after backstopping a 4-0 win Sunday to eliminate the New York Islanders.
The win was the St. Louis native’s fourth straight in the playoffs and he’s 8-2 overall in the postseason with a 1.89 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.
The series-clinching shutout was the fourth of Bishop’s eight seasons in the NHL, tying him with Jacques Plante and Martin Brodeur and putting him one behind Chris Osgood’s five.