Photo Credit-The Hockey News
When Vladimir Tarasenko burst onto the scene in the 2012-13 season with the St. Louis Blues, he carried the expectations of a star. The Blues had tried to get him over to the states for a while and in January 2013, after the lockout ended, the team got a dose of what the Russian Rocket could do. He scored 8 goals in 38 games, including 3 power play goals and 75 shots attempted. The hype wasn’t completely realized at that moment, but there was something wet left on the lips of many hockey fans here in St. Louis. The kid was someone to watch. In the playoffs in 2013, Tarasenko was used in limited manners, and it irked fans who wanted to see what the kid could do under the big stage.
They would have to wait until the 2013-14 season to really get a good look at his talent. Tarasenko didn’t disappoint, scoring 21 goals in 64 games and tallying 23 assists in addition to a +20 rating. When he hit the ice, good things happened. He was doing all of this for under 1 million dollars a season, the good old rookie bargain rate. He saved his greatest moments for the postseason. In Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Blues were down before Tarasenko lit up Corey Crawford and the rivals for 2 goals that gave the Blues the upper hand. He couldn’t be stopped on the ice. He would get the puck, move from the wing across the ice and fire a lightning quick shot on net. It was remarkable. His teammates had that look in their eyes. The look that read, “This guy is playing for us and this won’t stop any time soon.” He scored 4 goals in 6 games last spring in one round of playoff action. Maturation has occurred.
That’s the thing about goal scorers. A lot of players can put it all together for a season or two but many fall off afterwards. Defenses figure them out or they just lose that golden touch on their sticks. They lose a step or the edge. I don’t see that happening with Tarasenko. He is 22 years old and isn’t scoring by luck or enjoying a period of success. He knows where to be on the ice at all times and thrives off misdirection. He also has a center in Jori Lehtara who can feed him the puck and a wingman in Jaden Schwartz that keeps him on his toes and ready. He is surrounded by great young talent and a team that gives him several opportunities to be successful and lives or dies on his ability to produce. In the 2012-13 playoffs, Tarasenko wouldn’t touch the ice on a power play or in overtime. Now he is out there in both instances. On Tuesday night in Dallas, he netted a hat trick and each goal was filthy.
The first goal came on a pass from the wing with Tarasenko doing what he does best, flying across the middle of the ice and firing a shot in one instance. The second goal came on a shot from the middle that went right through the goaltender’s five hole. The third and game winning goal came in overtime on a one timer from the wing. He can beat you in a number of ways and is still learning this beautifully electric game of hockey. He will only get better.
When I think of Vlady, I think of a rocket. A force that can’t be stopped once it is launched in a certain direction. Teams can only hope to contain it and can’t even imagine stopping him. He’s a special player and I believe he will notch 40 goals this season. He has 4 goals and 5 assists in 8 games this season. Look for him to get more shots as the team’s schedule unfolds. If Ken Hitchcock is smart, he will stick with the Rocket Man.
For the first time in many years, the Blues have a true threat on the ice.