Vladimir Tarasenko’s latest return to action could be perfectly timed for the St. Louis Blues. The blow from the news earlier in the week David Perron had been added to the COVID Protocol list was lessened somewhat with the news Tarasenko would return to the lineup for the first time since May 3. It appears heading into the opening game, the plan was to slot Tarasenko onto the second line with center Tyler Bozak and left flanker Ivan Barbashev.
The 29-year-old Russian winger has been an offensive leader for the Blues since they selected him in the opening round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft with the 16th Overall pick. In a perfect world, Blues fans are no doubt longing to have both Tarasenko and Perron in the lineup but for now, Tarasenko is a good addition, if he can provide the offense he has in the past.
He has watched from the sidelines a couple of times during this shortened season and despite being a consistent and potent contributor all the way to Blues’ first-ever Stanley Cup celebration, a little tarnish is showing through in the seasons since. Injuries have no doubt played a primary role in the downturn as he simply hasn’t been on the ice and his biggest battles have involved trying to get an injured shoulder back to being as resilient as the player has been.
Pre-Stanley Cup: 2010-11 to 2018-19
Tarasenko stayed in Russia for a couple of seasons after being drafted by the Blues but he picked up a ton of pro experience playing in the KHL and shining in both the IIHF World Juniors and World Championship tournaments.
Once he arrived in the NHL, Tarasenko made his presence felt in a big way — after collecting 19 points in a 38-game start in 2013-14, Tarasenko notched 21 goals and 43 points in 64 games the following season. The next five seasons saw Tarasenko playing at least 76 games and scoring 30-plus goals in each campaign. He played 80 or more games three times and hit the 40-goal plateau in 2015-16. He was generally equally as potent in the postseason.
Tarasenko is already ranked fifth all-time among Blues’ goal scorers and 10th in points. In the Stanley Cup season, Tarasenko notched 11 playoff goals and picked up 17 points on his way to helping his teammates sip from the mug. Tarasenko was one of the league’s most dangerous players, equally adept at scoring and playmaking and while the team won its first Cup, many experts and certainly Blues’ fans felt that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Post-Stanley Cup: 2019-20 to 2020-21
The celebration with the Cup was ‘Gloria’-us in the Gateway to the West as the City celebrated its first-ever Championship in its 52-season history but for Tarasenko things have gone downhill ever since.
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Never nicked up for more than a few games at a time prior, Tarasenko didn’t make it out of the first month of the following season before a somewhat harmless-looking play ended up sending Tarasenko to the sidelines for five months. He has not been the same since. He did make it back late in the campaign, thanks in part to the long COVID-related layoff. He wrapped up 10 points in 10 regular-season contests and was pointless in a four-game playoff sweep before heading back to the surgeon with complications in his recovery.
This season has seen him on the sidelines a pair of times and his production has been off a bit when he did get in with just four goals in 24 games — certainly not up to the usual expectations for one of the team’s top offensive weapons.
The latest setback was just a couple of weeks but Tarasenko was just one part of a non-effective Blues’ team, outshot 50-23 by the host and Presidents’ Trophy-winning Colorado Avalanche who outshot them 50-23 on the way to a 4-1 decision in the opening game. That’s only one game, but clearly, the Blues have to make some changes in the way they play the Avs. One thing that could help is a quick return to form from Tarasenko.
Closing in on 60, Jim has been a fan of hockey, since the age of five and he has finally capped it as a THW Writer on the St. Louis Blues beat. Growing up in small town Ontario, he never got far as a player, but has spent most of the past 40 years writing about the game from the youth hockey to junior hockey and now, pro levels. A move to the Midwest (Wisconsin) in 2000 shifted the focus a bit. Working at small newspapers, Jim relished a chance to focus on hockey alone and has dabbled in that with a pair of websites, midwesthockey.info and saukhockey.info.