When Vladimir Tarasenko arrived on the scene last year from Russia, he came in with a lot of mystery.
A lot of familiar questions were raised: Would he adapt well to the North American game? Would he struggle with in a defensive system like the Blues have? Go ahead and insert any tired cliché about Russians.
What he did do, however, was show what he was all about right away scoring twice in his first game (including in highlight fashion) and piling up five points in his first two.
It wasn’t all fun and games, however. His production slowed down and then he suffered a concussion in mid-February that kept him out of action for a month. After that, his production slowed even more and his minutes were cut down. As it was, Tarasenko played in just one game in the playoffs.
As Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes, Ken Hitchcock thinks he could be in for a big season because he’ll be more comfortable this time around.
“He’s not going to be surprised by anything, he’s going to be way more ready, so I think our hope is that you see a player more comfortable, more composed, more assured of himself and I think this year we’ll get a really good evaluation. In talking to him, he’s about as far away as you can get from sophomore jinx. He’s hungry, he’s focused. Now you get to see his natural ability on a daily basis.”
The Blues will need him to be all that and then some. Hitchcock notes they were comfortable dealing David Perron because they wanted to make room, and get more minutes, for Tarasenko.
The team is doing what it can to help him break out and if he can do it, he can give them something they’ve lacked over the years: A bonafide gamebreaking scorer. If he can’t take that step, however, the Blues will have to hope their grinding style can lead them to the promised land.
Naturally, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz would prefer his top line, which includes star Alex Ovechkin, score goals instead of glide to the penalty box.
On Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ovechkin took two minor penalties, while Nicklas Backstrom had another.
Tampa Bay’s power play struck once in three opportunities, as the Lightning prevailed 2-1 in the shootout.
The Capitals did manage to score — a power play goal from Backstrom — to end their recent goal drought. But the issue of penalties — Ovechkin has a team-leading 10 minor penalties — is something Trotz plans to address.
“I wasn’t happy with that. Our top line took three of the penalties today. They needed to score a power play for us,” he told reporters. “They’ve got to stay out of the box. I need them on the ice. So yeah, we’ll talk about it for sure.”
The Capitals have now lost three in a row.
They sit in the first Wild Card spot in the East, alongside the Lightning, while the Philadelphia Flyers are right there, too.
“From my standpoint, we’ll take a good point on the road. Obviously we’re disappointed we didn’t get two. But the effort and the mindset was correct,” said Trotz.
“When you’re not winning, it doesn’t do anything for your confidence.”
He’s done it before. He’ll do it again.
Patrik Laine scored another beautiful goal for the Winnipeg Jets, as he beat Carter Hutton with a wrist shot Saturday. But it was how he got into position for the goal that is so much fun to watch.
Laine dished the puck to Bryan Little in the neutral zone, then, after shaking off a St. Louis Blues defender, he knocked the give-and-go pass out of the air and immediately ripped his shot past Hutton.
That’s goal No. 16 for the rookie Laine.
That goal also tied him with Sidney Crosby for the league lead in that category. Not bad — for a rookie.
And then Laine did this in OT, setting up Little for the winner. He can pass, too.
Video: Laine’s goal was the game-winner (and mind-blower)
Video: Nothing lucky about Laine’s seventh goal of the season
We asked earlier tonight if the bad blood between the Canucks and Leafs would spill over into tonight’s rematch. It had been pretty tame — unlike what occurred last month.
But there were some fireworks and, as expected following the events of Nov. 5, the combatants were Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson and Maple Leafs tough guy Matt Martin.
The two dropped the gloves for a heavyweight scrap during the second period, with both landing some major shots.
Placed on injured reserve earlier this week, Gabriel Landeskog may be close to returning to the Colorado Avalanche lineup.
Out with a lower-body injury for the past eight games, including tonight’s home contest against the Dallas Stars, Landeskog reportedly skated briefly with his teammates on Saturday. Head coach Jared Bednar provided more reason for optimism on the condition of the Colorado captain when he spoke to the media.
“He’s been working in the gym the last couple of days,” Bednar told the Denver Post.
“He’s been progressing. He feels better again today. He skated slightly on his own there for a few minutes, and that seemed to go well. I’ve already talked to (trainer Matt Sokolowski) about that. I would expect he’s a guy who’s going to continue to move forward here and probably be on the road trip with us.”
The Avalanche could certainly use their leader in the lineup.
They sit tied for last in the West with the Arizona Coyotes and Bednar, earlier this week, ripped his team for a lack of intensity following a 5-3 loss to Nashville on Tuesday.
The Avalanche begin a four-game road trip on Tuesday, as they face the Predators.