Robert Bortuzzo doesn’t score goals. He doesn’t really try to, and he’s not good at it. There’s no more delicate way to put this.
Okay, there is a slightly more delicate way. Blues coach Craig Berube found one during his postgame press conference. “He doesn’t, obviously, have the touch to produce all the time,” Berube said.
“It’s not really my game,” admitted Bortuzzo. The 30-year-old defenseman had scored a grand total of 14 goals in 365 career regular-season and playoff games. Even fewer if you subtract fluke deflections off a referee’s dick and balls. So of course—of course—Bortuzzo scored the game-winner on Monday night in San Jose, and he scored it with style and authority—roofing a backhand past Martin Jones to reverse the game’s momentum and help St. Louis tie up the Western Conference final at a game apiece.
Bortuzzo’s goal came about 10 minutes after Logan Couture scored a pair to tie the game, and the Shark Tank was rocking and it felt inevitable that the Blues would head home down 2-0. Instead, an extremely unexpected hero saved the day. And all his teammates wanted to do was sarcastically roast him.
“Picked the corner too,” center Brayden Schenn said. He then quipped, “I’m sure Bortuzzo has a few like that. Check the highlight reel.”
Schwartz joked that Bortuzzo scores those kind of goals “all the time” in practice.
As Binnington added, “That was really smooth. Nice play by him. He’s got that in his arsenal.”
Then there was team chairman Tom Stillman, who knew it all along. “I had Bortuzzo, backhand, top shelf, from the slot,” Stillman said with a suspiciously straight face.
The Blues will take ‘em how they can get ‘em, even from a hulking defenseman more proficient with his fists than with a stick. Bortuzzo, who’s only appeared in eight of St. Louis’s 14 playoff games this year, was asked if he remembered his last playoff goal. He thought for a long while, before admitting, “I don’t.” (It was in the OHL, in 2007.) Obviously relying on Bortuzzo and fellow blueliner Vince Dunn, who also scored on the night, isn’t a sustainable strategy, but any time you can win a conference final game without the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, or Ryan O’Reilly appearing on the scoresheet, that’s much more than just buying time for the big names to show up.