As the St. Louis Blues prepare for Game 5 tonight at home versus the Minnesota Wild one thing in particular stands out as the key to winning and taking their first series lead. No, it’s not intensity, or discipline or even playing a full 60 minutes though all of those things are important for this Jekyll and Hyde team. Based on their success in Games 1 and 4, the most critical task for the Blues to accomplish tonight will be to get Vladimir Tarasenko five or more shots on goal.
The Blues got goals from all four of their lines Wednesday night, which greatly improves their chances in any game, but the offense was once again driven primarily by Tarasenko. In the first four games Vladi has scored FIVE times on just eight shots but all generated in only two games. Contrastingly, in Games 1 and 3 Tarasenko had ZERO shots on goal. It was no coincidence then that both games resulted in a St. Louis loss.
In Tarasenko the Blues have the piece of their offensive puzzle they’ve been missing for years: a bona-fide, game-breaking goal scorer. While he couldn’t help them win their first round match-up last season due to (inexplicable) limited ice time, he wowed fans and media alike with his playoff performance against the Chicago Blackhawks. Now, over ten post-season games Tarasenko has NINE goals on 30 shots. He’s a catalyst for the Blues offensively and is averaging over 15 minutes per game in this year’s Round 1 series.
Tarasenko became the first Blues player in ten years to net a Hat Trick in the playoffs when he banged in three goals on five shots in Game 2 and then added two more tallies on just three shots in Game 4, another win for St. Louis, including this highlight reel goal in the second period:
When Vladi gets room to handle the puck and can get his shots through to the net good things happen for the Blues. This is no secret and in games the Wild have been able to eliminate him as a threat the rest of the team hasn’t been able to pick up the slack. With all the fire-power the Blues have they’re going to need guys like Jaden Schwartz and T.J. Oshie to step up and start lighting the lamp, but if St. Louis can ensure at least 5 shots on goal for Tarasenko odds are we’ll see another Blues victory.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) April 23, 2015