It’s been a frustrating, bumpy start to the season for the St. Louis Blues. Still, with some injuries taking go-to players out of the mix, it forces a player like Vladimir Tarasenko to step up.
Maybe that’s just the opportunity the promising Russian forward needs.
Tarasenko has five goals and six points in his last three games. That constitutes a significant portion of his production this season, yet it’s not as if he’s been a wallflower otherwise; the 22-year-old has been unleashing his lethal shot frequently this season (45 shots on goal in just 10 games).
Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock told NHL.com that he believes he’s witnessing Tarasenko’s transformation into a star.
“When he first came over, he was just happy to play here,” Hitchcock said. “Now he wants to be a guy that contributes every night. He wants to be a significant player in the League. It’s a big difference.
Hitchcock believes that a frustrating experience at the 2014 Winter Olympics fueled the winger’s fire, to some extent.
Of course, it helps to have a wicked shot.
“It’s special, but we see it every day,” Maxim Lapierre said. “He’s got such a good shot. Probably the best shot I’ve seen in my life. If he keeps playing like that, he’s going to get a lot of goals … It’s one thing to have a hard shot, but he puts it anywhere he wants. It’s easy for him to score goals, let’s put it that way.”
It’s also another thing to have the guts to take a ton of shots. Perhaps Tarasenko didn’t feel liberated enough to hammer away before; he’s jumped to 4.5 shots per game after averaging a perfectly respectable 2.7 last season. That volume will likely come down to some extent, yet if this is a sign that he’s becoming more assertive, the Blues should be quite excited.