Blues Weekly: O’Reilly, Tarasenko, Special Teams & More

Despite the many twists and turns of this 2021-22 season for the St. Louis Blues, they continue to win, with a 2-1-0 week. They defeated the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks, with their first loss of the season coming to the Colorado Avalanche.

The Blues remain atop the Central Division with a 6-1-0 record, which is good for 12 points, putting them at fifth in the entire NHL in points. They’ve played at least one game less than the four teams ahead of them, which is notable. Let’s get into the second week of Blues Weekly.

O’Reilly Enters COVID Protocol

Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly entered the COVID protocol before the game with the Avalanche on Oct. 28. With him having symptoms following a positive test, he must miss a minimum of ten days. These last two games are the first games that O’Reilly has missed as a member of the Blues, he had played in 214 straight.

O’Reilly had an odd start to the season, as he had a couple of struggles in the first few games but still managed to score a point in each game.

Ryan O'Reilly St. Louis Blues
Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Fortunately, the Blues have the center depth to overcome this loss, but it still hurts the team. He will miss the next two games at a minimum, maybe even the next three. The Blues’ COVID issues continue as they missed Brandon Saad for multiple games when he was on the list, and backup goaltender Ville Husso is now on the list.

Related: 3 Blues That Can Step Up in O’Reilly’s Absence

Another great thing for this team is its depth in the leadership roles, players like David Perron and Brayden Schenn can step up for the top line. The Blues need to stay afloat until their captain returns, and their schedule could help them do that.

Vintage Tarasenko is Back

It appears as if Vladimir Tarasenko wasn’t lying when he said he’s here to play hockey. He has been tremendous for the Blues throughout this entire season. He’s currently riding a six-game point streak where he has scored four goals and five assists in those games.

Tarasenko seems to click with Robert Thomas as his center, and his connection with Ivan Barbashev is apparent as well. Even when Oskar Sundqvist returns, I don’t think the Blues will split this lineup, they are consistent in every game.

Tarasenko is now tied for the team lead in points at nine, with Perron and Jordan Kyrou. He’s second in goals with four, behind Perron, who has six. His aggressiveness is coming back, even though he has a few mishaps in every game, his shot seems to be all the way back to an elite level. It’s encouraging to see this play from Tarasenko, he’s been among the Blues’ best through seven games.

Blues’ Elite Special Teams Play

The Blues may be the most balanced special teams squad early in the season, ranking second in the power play and penalty kill departments. The key additions of Saad and Pavel Buchnevich haven’t even made much of a difference on special teams, yet here they are. This is the second season in a row where the Blues special teams have started off on a hot streak.

The Blues are clicking at 35% on the power play, behind just the Edmonton Oilers, who are at an ungodly 47%. The Blues beat the Blackhawks in their previous game with just one goal, a power-play marker from Torey Krug. The second season of Krug in St. Louis seems to allow him to feel more comfortable as the quarterback of the top unit.

Torey Krug St. Louis Blues
Torey Krug, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images)

Another player who has been tremendous in all phases is Justin Faulk, the clear-cut best defenseman on this team. The Blues penalty kill sits at 91%, behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are 94%. Even without their best penalty-killing forward in O’Reilly, the Blues have killed off six of seven in their last two games.

The biggest plus in the penalty-killing department might be Jordan Binnington, who has a solid .917 save percentage (SV%) when killing penalties. Either way, the Blues’ play special teams is one of the biggest reasons for their success to begin this season.

Hofer Recalled from Springfield

With Husso heading to the COVID list, the Blues recalled 21-year-old netminder Joel Hofer from the American Hockey League affiliate Springfield Thunderbirds. In four games for the Thunderbirds this season, Hofer has posted a stellar .936 SV% and a 3-0-1 record.

Hofer has broken out in the AHL after a less than spectacular season in 2020-21, where he had a .898 SV% in 10 games played. It’s unknown whether he will play or not, but the Blues do have a road back-to-back this week in Los Angeles with the Kings and the San Jose Sharks.

The Week Ahead

  • Wednesday: at Los Angeles Kings, 9 PM
  • Thursday: at San Jose Sharks, 9:30 PM
  • Sunday: at Anaheim Ducks, 7 PM

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