Wild fans will want to treat Steve Ott as a villain. He’s not. Villains are frightening. Ott is more like junk mail — annoying but meaningless, and soon to be stuffed in the proper recycling bin.
If the St. Louis Blues were intelligent, they would be feeding off the talent of Vladimir Tarasenko. Instead, they are feeding off the idiocy of Ott, a supposed enforcer who plays like a child, holding sticks and patting heads instead of just once hitting someone square.
When Ott actually had a chance to help his team with a third-period breakaway, he lost the puck, then fanned on a pass in the crease. He’s not a hockey player; he’s a rodeo clown.
Sometimes Ott mimics a tough guy late in games, when the hockey portion of the evening has ended. Monday, with his team down by three goals in the waning moments, he jumped on the smallest player in the game, Jared Spurgeon.
For Ott’s next act of bravery, he will taunt a sleeping kitten.
“That’s two games now — both wins — that he’s ended up with a 10-minute misconduct,” Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “It’s at the end of the game, so we know why he’s out there and that’s what he’s looking to do.”
Dubnyk sprinted out of his crease when he saw Ott on top of Spurgeon.
“He’s scratching at Spurgy’s face,” Dubnyk said. “He’s on the ice with his glove in his face and I could see his fingers moving, he’s pulling at his mouth and his nose and eyes. I don’t want our guy to end up hurt with his eyes or whatever. And the ref was standing there, so I just told him to grab, to get his hand. I could see his hand scratching at his face, so I just don’t want Spurgy to get hurt and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what he was trying to do.”
After a season of Wild fans dreading a matchup with the Blues, this series is already a competitive disappointment, and for wholly unexpected reasons. The Wild skated figure eights around St. Louis on Monday night at Xcel Energy Center, winning 3-0 to take a 2-1 advantage in the series.
The Blues are one of those hockey clubs that think hitting after the whistle is a substitute for scoring goals or stopping pucks. Other than a predictable flurry to begin Game 2, they have been unworthy of playoff hockey.
The flip side of this development is that the Wild now has no excuse not to take a 3-1 lead Wednesday. If these Wild players lose a series to a team this undisciplined, they should be banned from their lake homes and forced to wear Ott jerseys this summer.
The Blues were supposed to be a tougher opponent than last year’s Round 1 foe, Colorado, but they are proving again they don’t have the stomach for a fair fight. Since 2003, they are 3-17 on the road in the playoffs. They’d be better off sending Bernie Federko’s statue.
If the symbolic moment of Game 2 was Ott patting Jason Zucker on the head, the symbolic moment of Game 3 might have been Zucker laughing in the face of St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, or Ott missing a check on Jonas Brodin and faking a punch at Matt Dumba, who was sitting on the bench. Dumba laughed as if he was watching Will Ferrell in an elf suit.
If the Blues’ goal was to intimidate, they have failed. They will need another strategy, or gear.
Ott makes his most notable appearances right before the postgame Zamboni. He is the victory cigar you would rather not smoke.
Once the Wild had won, the Blues “enforcer” became Ott the Penalty Bot.
“Just let him be a nonfactor out there,” Wild forward Charlie Coyle said. “That’s his game. That’s what he’s here to do. We don’t focus on that. We don’t pay attention to it. He doesn’t do much out there.”
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at souhanunfiltered.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib • firstname.lastname@example.org