– Photos by Ryan Leopando / Arch City Sports
“In my opinion, the closest thing St Louis has to that type of player is Vladimir Tarasenko. I would love to see him get more reps with the top-2 lines, instead of the third. Talent-wise, he’s as good as anyone on the team. He just doesn’t have the name and reputation of Oshie, Backes or Steen.”
That was an excerpt from an article I wrote two weeks ago, just before Vladimir Tarasenko went on a rampage. I think since I wrote this article, his reputation has increased dramatically.
Over the last few seasons, the St Louis Blues have gone from a mediocre team to a feared, talented team. The depth of the Blues is unmatched. Offensively, they are loaded with guys that know how to move the puck into the attacking zone. Defensively, they have a slew of guys that know how to take away passing lanes. In the last year, the Blues have seen Jaroslav Halak and Ryan Miller both leave the gateway city. Brian Elliott and Jake Allen are doing more than most of us expected, and might one of the finest goalie-pairings in the league. There is nothing this team doesn’t do well.
Let’s talk about the hot topic. Let’s discuss Vladimir Tarasenko. Prior to the Blues current seven game winning streak, Tarasenko had a mere one goal. During the seven game streak, Vladi has lit the lamp eight times. What’s most impressive to me about Tarasenko is the fact that he can score several different ways. He works very well with Jori Lehtera, who might be the best pure passer on the Blues’ roster. Four of Tarasenko’s eight goals during the streak have come off assists from Lehtera. Two of Vladi’s goals have been eye-popping, highlight reel goals. Last night he made Cory Schneider fall down and wristed one from a sharp angle. November third he split the entire Ranger’s defense on his way to one-handing the puck by Cam Talbot for a goal that looks like something from a video game.
I think we as sports fans can sometimes get carried away from time to time with comparisons. The Blues haven’t had a player come along that could be compared to Brett Hull, till now. I am not comparing the careers of the two snipers. Tarasenko has only played 115 games. That comparison would be pointless. One thing you can compare is the shot. The accuracy and velocity in which the puck leaves Tarasenko’s stick is pretty similar to that of Brett Hull. The NHL hasn’t seen a man score 50 goals in the teams’ first 50 games since Hull did it in 1991-92. It’s a bit of a long shot, But Tarasenko certainly has that type of ability. Tarasenko has the make up to become the first “Super Star” for the Blues in a long time.
The defense for St Louis is the real story. The Blues’ defense is allowing 25.9 shots per game, which sits them third in the league in that category. Blues’ goalies are only allowing 1.92 goals per game, which is only trailing the Chicago Blackhawks. This shows you that the shots other teams are getting, aren’t necessarily good looks. St Louis’ top four defensemen are the best in the NHL in my mind. Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Boumeester are both “defense first” players, but have the ability to light up the scoreboard. The second line (Carl Gunnarsson and Kevin Shattenkirk) are better than most teams first defensive pairings.
Paul Stastny made his return to the lineup last night against the Devils. He moved well but looked like most new guys look. He didn’t seem to mesh well with the team. I expect a player of his caliber to find his way with the Blues in the coming games.
Another bright spot for St Louis is the fact that they’re doing all of this heavy lifting without their most popular player, TJ Oshie. Oshie has been recovering from a concussion for the last two weeks, and is expected to return to action sooner, rather than later.
Here goes a funny stat for you. After completion of Thursday night’s games, the Tarasenko, Lehtera, Schwartz line has accounted for 17 goals on the season, which is more than the entire Florida Panthers (16) and Buffalo Sabres (15).
I get a lot of fans telling me to not get excited about the Blues this early in the season. “Wins don’t matter till they do it in the playoffs,” one fan told me. I strongly disagree with that. Teams learn how to play together in the regular season. They figure out what works. They take what doesn’t work and make adjustments. Winning breeds winning just like positivity breeds positivity. Does this early success mean the Blues are going to win the Stanley Cup? Not quite. Do I like the St Louis Blues chances against any other team in the league? You bet I do.
Till next time, LET’S GO BLUES!