Most hockey games are just that, games. Tuesday was a stark reminder of that.
That’s when St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester suffered a cardiac episode on the bench while playing the Anaheim Ducks, lost consciousness and had to be revived by medical personnel with a defibrillator. The frightening scene, which led to the game being postponed, provided eerie perspective on how life can change in an instant.
Somehow, the Blues have to turn their focus back to games. The NHL grind is unrelenting, especially for the defending Stanley Cup champions. So the team now faces the unenviable task of getting back to hockey when its thoughts often stray from the rink.
“We’ve all been through a lot,” center Ryan O’Reilly said. “You can tell, we miss (Bouwmeester). For myself, every game I’ve played here in the last two years, he’s been here. It’s weird not having him in the room, and just his presence alone is such a calming thing for our team.”
Bouwmeester, who had surgery Friday to insert a defibrillator to restore his heart’s normal rhythm, was part of perhaps the league’s best blue line. Him not being on the ice is a huge loss for the Blues, who had allowed at least three goals in their last 10 games entering Saturday.
They went 2-5-3 in that stretch and suddenly have the Colorado Avalanche on their heels in the Central Division. That span includes a 6-5 overtime loss to the Golden Knights in their first game after Bouwmeester’s incident, a game in which coach Craig Berube said his players weren’t “very sharp” mentally.
“It’s a pretty tough time,” left wing Zach Sanford said afterward.
It will continue to be difficult for the Blues to battle for points while thinking of their recovering teammate. Returning home should help, as Saturday began a stretch in which the team plays three of four at home.
Captain Alex Pietrangelo said as much Thursday after the loss to the Knights.
“I think we’re all looking forward to getting home, going to see (Bouwmeester’s) wife (Devon) and hugging our kids and our wives and spending a couple days at home,” Pietrangelo said.
Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid is out two to three weeks with a quad injury, general manager Ken Holland said Tuesday.
The Oilers better hope he’s not gone any longer than that. The team’s play with and without their 23-year-old center is staggering.
Edmonton is outscoring its opponents 53-51 at 5-on-5 with McDavid on the ice and being outscored 78-59 with him off it.
Another one bites the dust
Bruce Boudreau became the eighth NHL coach to lose his job this season when Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin fired him Friday.
Boudreau, like most of the rest, can put a lot of the blame for his dismissal on goaltending. The Wild had the 25th-best team save percentage in the league when Boudreau was fired. The fact that the team was three points out of a playoff spot despite its poor play in net and a lack of star forwards is a huge testament to his coaching.
RJ’s best and worst
Review-Journal hockey writer Ben Gotz gives his best and worst NHL teams each week (record and goal differential through Friday):
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (38-15-5, +53)
They’ve won nine straight and reclaimed the title of most-feared team in the league.
2. Boston Bruins (35-11-12, +48)
They have to be kicking themselves for their 0-7 shootout record now that the Lightning have come storming back in their division.
3. Washington Capitals (37-15-5, +31)
Left wing Alexander Ovechkin has gone goalless in three straight games as he pursues Nos. 699 and 700.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (35-15-6, +35)
Las Vegas-raised left wing Jason Zucker was a great addition by general manager Jim Rutherford.
5. Colorado Avalanche (33-17-6, +45)
Center Nathan MacKinnon has 80 points. His next-closest teammate has 43. That should get him Hart Trophy votes.
27. San Jose Sharks (25-28-4, -39)
Defenseman Brent Burns has six points in his last six games.
28. New Jersey Devils (21-26-10, -43)
Young goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood is 4-0-1 in his last five starts. That should give their fans hope.
29. Ottawa Senators (19-27-11, -43)
The trade deadline might force them to make a difficult decision on center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, a pending unrestricted free agent on pace for a career year.
30. Los Angeles Kings (20-33-5, -44)
They have the third-most shots in the NHL, but their team shooting percentage (7.2) ranks last.
31. Detroit Red Wings (14-41-4, -99)
Five road wins in 30 games is pretty bad.