Robert Bortuzzo

Blues sweep season series vs. Blackhawks for first time

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For the first time in franchise history, the Blues managed a sweep of their season series against the Blackhawks.

In Sunday’s case, the Blues beat the Blackhawks 2-0 on Sunday to complete that sweep. Jake Allen made all 29 saves, earning his second shutout of 2019-20 and the 21st of his career. Allen already came into Sunday with a quietly strong season, considering a .925 save percentage that improved that much more.

Following this post about the Blues’ underrated defense, blueliners provided both of St. Louis’ goals. They were both from the same angle, more or less, as Robert Bortuzzo and Alex Pietrangelo beat Corey Crawford. Here’s the game-winner (click here for Pietrangelo’s goal):

Winning this game improves the Blues’ chances of holding off the Avalanche for the Central Division crown. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks’ hopes look dimmer and dimmer.

Blues – Blackhawks broadcast features first all-female crew

Kate Scott and A.J. Mleczko called the action on Sunday, while Kendall Coyne-Schofield provided analysis between the benches “Inside the Glass.” Meanwhile, producer Rene Hatlelid and director Lisa Seltzer handled game production.

[PHT Q&A with Kate Scott]

This served as a first-of-its-kind broadcast, which fell on International Women’s Day. Coverage also included features and other coverage involving NBC’s “On Her Turf” brand.

Scott Mleczko Blues Blackhawks
Kate Scott (L) and A.J. Mleczko (R) (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

In a Q&A with PHT, Scott spoke of how she hopes the broadcast inspires others.

“I’m hoping that they take away that they can do this. That calling a game, analyzing a game, directing a game, producing a game, shooting a game, I’m hoping that they turn off the television on Sunday night thinking, ‘Wow, that was never something I thought I could do before, but I think I can do that.’ That’s one of the reasons, in my opinion, that we are still seeing such slow growth when it comes to women calling and analyzing sports because it starts when you’re a kid,” Scott said. “You go to most of the college radio and television stations around the country and they’re still predominantly male because you’ve got to see somebody doing what you want to do when you’re a kid and have that seed planted early on to be able to go and then learn the skills early enough in life to then be prepared to call moments and games like Sunday.”

From here, it looked (and sounded) like a great success, and hopefully represents merely another step toward greater progress.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Intriguing updates for Dustin Byfuglien, Justin Williams

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• As Dustin Byfuglien mends his ankle, it’s possible the Jets might also mend their relationship with the defenseman. A possible arbitration hearing complicates things, although if the healing goes especially well, maybe it will become a moot point? (Winnipeg Free Press)

• Speaking of a veteran player who may or may not retire, Justin Williams continues to “ramp up” his skating. Also like Byfuglien, it’s not certain that Williams would return to his most recent team (in his case, the Hurricanes). Although, in Williams’ case, a cap crunch might force a different path, rather than the hard feelings that might be swirling around Byfuglien and the Jets.  (TSN)

Viktor Arvidsson could return soon for the Predators, which would be huge for a hit-or-miss Nashville team. (The Tennessean)

• Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray delivered tough injury news for Troy Terry, and Derek Grant. The outlook is sunnier for Jacob Larsson, at least. (Ducks website)

• Was the Los Angeles Kings – Ilya Kovalchuk relationship doomed from the start? (Jewels from the Crown)

• The Blues are surviving without Vladimir Tarasenko, and it’s not only due to defense and goaltending. (Sportsnet)

• In a vacuum, the Coyotes won the Taylor Hall trade, particularly because of it not being very costly. When you add the context of the teams (include the Blues) who missed out on Hall, it becomes an even bigger win for Arizona. (Yahoo)

• You’d think a backup goalie would get more support than a starter. Yet, in the case of the Flames, they haven’t scored many goals when Cam Talbot has been in net. (Flames Nation)

• Sometimes, jersey retirements soothe fans who need to bask in nostalgia rather than focus on the future. In this case, though, maybe the Islanders’ hot play under Barry Trotz is a great time to revisit the golden years? Either way, the Islanders are retiring John Tonelli’s 27 and Butch Goring’s 91 in February. (Islanders website)

• Breaking down Team USA’s promising patch of prospects heading into the WJC. (McKeen’s Hockey/Rotoworld)

• Elliotte Friedman rattled off the latest edition of “31 Thoughts” on Wednesday. (Sportsnet)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bortuzzo on suspension: ‘I’m not a malicious player’

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When the St. Louis Blues visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night they will be getting veteran defenseman Robert Bortuzzo back in the lineup following his four-game suspension for repeatedly cross-checking Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson in the back a little more than a week ago.

That incident has received plenty of attention not only because Bortuzzo is a repeat offender, but also because Arvidsson was injured as a result of the play and will remain out of the Nashville lineup for several more weeks.

Bortuzzo spoke on Monday ahead of his return to the lineup and said that while the cross-check was “maybe a little excessive,” his intent is never to injure an opponent. He was also asked if multiple offenses has caused him to develop the wrong kind of reputation around the league.

“I’m going to play the game hard,” Bortuzzo said, via The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford. “I feel like I do a good job of walking the line. I’m not going to go through all my instances. I’m sure it’s easy to dissect things for other people.

“The temperature of the game is high at times. Again, I’m not a malicious player. I’m not out here trying to injure people and I stand by that. It’s a game I have to play, on that edge, and I’m proud of the way. I play hard without being malicious.”

The problem for Bortuzzo here is that it is very easy for other people dissect things because he keeps giving other people things to dissect. He has an extensive track record of cross-checking incidents, including one on New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson that was virtually identical to the one that earned him his most recent suspension.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was asked about the Avridsson play on Monday ahead of their game, and on top of calling it a “horse [expletive] play,” he added this, via the Daily Herald:

“Nothing against guys that play hard,” Toews said. “That’s why I love playing this team (the Blues) because they play us hard all the time. But to me (the NHL is) doing everything to get rid of head shots and get rid of head injuries, but that to me seems like an intent to injure.

“Just because it’s not contact on a guy’s head doesn’t mean it’s not just as severe. So I thought it was pretty bad.”

On top of these two incidents there was a cross-check away from the play last year that injured Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, a cross-check against Boston’s Jordan Szwarz that resulted in a fine, and that incident with Dallas’ Esa Lindell in last year’s playoffs where Bortuzzo became frustrated with his opponent flopping.  The bottom line here is this is now three times he has been disciplined for cross-checking incidents (two fines and a suspension) on top suspensions for two different kinds of infractions.

The tape does not lie, and he is very much a repeat offender which is going to put a pretty big target on his back in the eyes of the league. If he steps over the line again the next suspension could be significant. 

Related: Blackhawks will be shorthanded for game on Monday

Adam Gretz is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Lightning’s Cernak suspended 2 games for elbowing Rasmus Dahlin

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A busy week for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety continued on Tuesday when they announced a two-game suspension for Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak.

Late in the second period of Tampa Bay’s 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night, Cernak caught Rasmus Dahlin with an elbow to the head that left the young defender with a concussion.

There was no penalty called on the play.

Here is a look at the play, as well as the NHL’s explanation of the suspension.

The most surprising thing in that video is the note from the DoPS that the Lightning tried to argue that Dahlin’s glove is what drove Cernak’s elbow into his face. The DoPS clearly disagreed with that assessment.

This is the first time Cernak has been fined or suspended by the league. He will lose $7,500 as a result of the suspension and miss games against the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals. He will be eligible to return to the Lightning lineup on Nov. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Cernak has appeared in 20 games this season for the Lightning, scoring one goal.

There is no word on when Dahlin, the league’s reigning rookie of the year, will be returning to the Sabres’ lineup.

Already this week the DoPS has suspended Toronto Maple Leafs forward Alexander Kerfoot two games for boarding and Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo four games for cross-checking.

Related: Sabres’ Dahlin injured

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Morning Skate: Bergeron out indefinitely; Ovechkin’s early D.C. days

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• On the Robert Bortuzzo suspension: “According to the Department of Player Safety, the act alone would typically lead to only a fine, rather than a suspension. That was the case in October 2017, when Bortuzzo was fined the maximum allowed ($3,091.40) under the Collective Bargaining Agreement for cross-checking New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson while Nelson was down on the ice — a ‘very similar play’ to the Arvidsson incident, although at the time, ‘he didn’t have the history,’ according to Player Safety. But this time, Bortuzzo was a repeat offender, having been suspended three games (two preseason games, one regular-season game) for elbowing Michal Kempny of the Washington Capitals in September 2018. That, combined with the injury to Arvidsson and a history of similar acts, raised this incident to the level of a four-game suspension rather than a fine.” [ESPN]

Alex Kerfoot on his two-game suspension: “I feel terrible about the incident … I didn’t mean to do it by any means, but it’s a bad spot on the ice and something I should not be doing.” [The Star] 

• A lower-body injury will keep the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron out for at least the next two games. [NBC Sports Boston]

• The chemistry between Max Domi and Nick Suzuki has been fun to watch. [Eyes on the Prize]

• A fun read about the early days of Alex Ovechkin in Washington D.C. [Capitals]

• The other part of the Jacob Trouba deal, Neal Pionk, is doing real well with the Jets. [Winnipeg Free Press]

• Why Hockey Fights Cancer is meaningful to Ryan Dzingel of the Hurricanes. [News and Observer]

• How cancer forced Kings trainer Chris Kingsley to take care of himself [LA Times]

• It’s time for the Devils to reunite Jack Hughes and Nikita Gusev. [Pucks and Pitchforks]

• Keying in on defense has helped the Sharks turn things around. [NBC Sports Bay Area]

• A look at how the Viktor Arvidsson injury will affect the Predators’ lineup. [Predlines]

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.