The start of the 2012-13 season could not have looked better for the rookie Vladimir Tarasenko.
In the Blues’ rousing 6-0 season-opening victory over the rival Detroit Red Wings, Tarasenko added his first two NHL goals in his first career game. He scored on a breakaway and then added his second on an impressive dipsy doodle against defenseman Kyle Quincey. This all came in the first 20:29 of the game.
Tarasenko wasn’t finished after his first game. He added three goals and five assists over his next seven matches. He added another goal and assist before a season-changing hit occurred on Feb. 20.
In the Blues’ matchup with the Colorado Avalanche, Tarasenko was the victim of a questionable hit from forward Mark Olver, which sent him to the locker room and out of the game. It was announced that Tarasenko suffered a concussion and would miss some time.
The Russian, who already received a concussion during the lockout playing in the KHL, missed the next 10 games of the season. Through the remainder of the season (21 games), Tarasenko added just two goals and five points, dropping out of the Blues’ top-six forward group and playing some nights on the fourth line.
The difference in his play even warranted time in the press box as head coach Ken Hitchcock decided not to dress Tarasenko for five of the Blues’ six playoff games. At the time, Hitchcock called the season “overwhelming” for the rookie, opting to place veterans in the lineup over Tarasenko.
Questions mounted over the summer if Tarasenko could find that scoring touch again. Was he playing a timid game because of his recent injury disasters?
“Timid” is not a word in the Blues’ dictionary.
The opening of the 2013-14 season has been similar to last season for the Blues. They have stormed out of the gate, posting a 4-0-0 record with wins against the Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers. The Blues brass has also seen a scoring outburst, adding at least four goals in three of the four games.
Tarasenko has been at the center of that. He has notched a goal in three straight games on just seven shots. His first-period goal against the Blackhawks was vintage Tarasenko.
Despite being slated as the third line, Tarasenko and his linemates are arguably the most dangerous line for the Blues. Including Jaden Schwartz and Patrik Berglund, the Tarasenko line has posted five goals and five assists to go along with a plus-10 rating.
Hitchcock has awarded him with playing time as well. In Tarasenko’s final seven games of 2012-13, he averaged 12:22 of ice time per night. To open the 2013-14 season, he has seen an average of 14:45 per night.
The tale of the sophomore jinx didn’t travel to Tarasenko’s hometown.