Just a month and a half ago, the St. Louis Blues appeared to be circling the drain. The team who had missed the playoffs by a mere point in the 2017-18 season had reloaded, bringing in several key guys who were expected to boost the team’s play. After several offseason acquisitions, the Blues were touted to easily make the playoffs in the 2018-19 season and were even a popular pick to reach the Stanley Cup. Those aspirations appeared to flutter to the floor through the first few months of the season. The defense was a mess, goaltending was not good, and the team did not play with an ounce of chemistry. This saw the Blues drop to rock bottom in the NHL standings by January 2nd.
Blues star winger Vladimir Tarasenko appeared to be a shell of his former self. Coming off shoulder surgery last April, the Russian superstar had no confidence in his wrist shot. He was often making the additional pass instead of taking the shot, something he typically has not done over the duration of his career given his lethal wrist shot. The first three and a half months of the season were brutal for Tarasenko, as he went through as much as a 10-game goal drought, had only nine goals through the first 31 games of the season, and only had two multi-goal games at the midway point of the season. Trade rumors even started to accumulate, as some said the Blues may be sellers and Tarasenko could use a change of scenery. But as of the last month, those rumors were halted.
After the Blues found themselves dead last in the standings, Vladimir Tarasenko came alive. After dropping to last in the standings, the Blues won four of their next five games and Tarasenko was a big reason why, scoring four goals and adding two assists in that stretch which included a two-goal performance in Dallas. The Blues would lose three of the their next four in all relatively close fashion and had one game left in the month of January before the All-Star break and bye week. The Blues would take down the struggling Anaheim Ducks 5-1 on the road with one of the goals scored by Tarasenko. In the month of January, the Blues played 11 games. Tarasenko’s stat line for the month was 6G-4A-10P. The Blues record in the month was 6-4-1. That record is not great or terrible by any means, but it was good for a team who had struggled to that point. It looked as Tarasenko and the Blues were finally turning some sort of corner.
Vladimir Tarasenko is back. #stlblues https://t.co/jIUicZhwDX
Indeed, the corner was being turned. Coming off nine days rest, the Blues were set to get back to action. The Blues started rattling off wins left and right. This included a 1-0 shutout of the best team in the NHL in the Tampa Bay Lightning on the road, with Tarasenko getting an assist on the game winning goal in overtime. The Blues also beat the divisional foe Nashville Predators on back to back days which included a Tarasenko hat trick in Nashville and four goals total in the two games against the Preds.
Both Tarasenko and the entire teams play has been consistent, spurring them to a current 10 game win streak, tied for longest win streak in franchise history. Tarasenko himself is on a career high 12-game point streak. He has gotten back to playing at an elite level and it is almost to the point where fans know his going to snipe one past the opponent’s goalie on what seems like a nightly basis. Tarasenko is up to 26 goals on the year, just seven away from his 2017-18 total. Not only has his offense improved, but Tarasenko’s backcheck and defensive play has been upped as well, making for a complete 200-foot game which makes him all the most and even more dangerous.
Tarasenko is not the sole reason for the Blues turnaround, but he has certainly helped push the Blues back up into the standings. The team has climbed all the way to the third spot in the central and looks primed for a playoff push over the next month and a half. The Blues are at home tonight as they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:00pm in search of their franchise record 11th straight win. Tarasenko looks to extend his point streak to 13 games. But the important thing is that Vladimir Tarasenko is back, and it will certainly be exciting to see how long can keep up this tear.