(KMOV.com) - During Sunday’s national broadcast Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick described Blues forward Steve Ott as a guy who wouldn’t be allowed in an airport control tower because it’s the one place you don’t want distractions and Ott is a master manipulator.
Ott knows his role and there's no better description than his Twitter bio, “Love by many. Hated by many…MORE.”
If he were cast in The Mighty Ducks he could play both Charlie Conway and Wolf ‘The Dentist’ Stansson. He's loved inside the Blues locker room and vilified outside of it.
However he isn’t just a pest for opposing teams but his head coach as well. Ken Hitchcock said he was sick of listening to his skater whine about playing and finally just inserted him into the starting lineup for Game 3.
“He’s been hounding forever. He just wore me down,” Hitchcock said. “He’s such a pain I just said ‘might as well go play cause I’m tired of listening to you bark in my ear the whole time.’”
In his first action since tearing both hamstrings four months ago Ott did what he’s known for – got under the skin of the Blackhawks and he did it in less than six and a half minutes. He laid big hits on Marcus Kruger and Brent Seabrook while tussling with Jonathan Toews. It was all done in only 13 shifts each lasting about 29 seconds.
"He was in everybody's face," said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. "That's why I used to hate playing against him, but I like him now."
His coach knows he's going to leave his mark on the first round in the playoffs. Even when he's not on the ice Ott is constantly chirping at players trying to give his team every physical or mental challenge he can find.
“I think he’s going to have an impact in this series before she’s done,” Hitchcock added. “He did exactly what he needs to do in the first game back in four months. He wants to be an impact guy and he can have a big impact on this series here.”
The Blues have seen his impact in the postseason when Ott irked most members of the Wild last year. In last season’s Game 2 victory he played his role well getting reactions from goaltender Devan Dubnyk and Jordan Leopold and was caught petting Jason Zucker’s helmet.
“You play the game hard and you try to stay on that fine line without crossing it throughout the night,” Ott said last April.
Really Ott said when the game starts his brain shuts off.
“The compete usually leads to talking or the physicality part of things. I think it’s just reactionary.”
It’s amazing Ott is even on the ice to pester the competition after his horrific hamstring injury. It was a one-of-a-kind situation in the NHL and the results of the recovery process were unknown to everyone. Could he come back this year or could this end his career? For a guy who relies heavily on the strength of his legs to hammer people into the boards, it was a scary situation.
“It’s exciting to feel like a player again and to feel good,” the 13-year-old veteran said. “From being in agonizing pain to not being able to move let along get off the couch to walking again to running to skating again. The rehab between myself and Ray Barile, I give him a lot of credit because he’s put in a lot of time.”
Ott was ready to play at the beginning of April but a diagnosis of Colitis nearly derailed his comeback. But he pushed forward and was rewarded with 6:29 of play in Game 3 of the Western Division Quarterfinal Round.
"I think it was maybe wrongful diagnosis. I just had a bad bout that week. It wasn't fun but I only missed four days. You miss four days after working hard for the past three months it really is nothing. I got back on my skates three days after and felt good and became an option to be in the lineup."
Oh and he recorded four hits Sunday afternoon. With 133 days off Ott says he's got plenty of energy to fuel him throughout the playoffs.
“It’s just amazing what he’s done and what kind of work he’s put in to be a player in this series,” said Hitchcock.