The “hard lessons” continued last night for Vladimir Tarasenko. For a fifth straight game — i.e. the entire Western Conference Final — the Blues’ sniper went goalless. In his last three games combined, he’s managed just four shots total.
“He’s a guy that’s struggled this series,” conceded coach Ken Hitchcock after Game 5, a 6-3 loss that put St. Louis on the brink of elimination. “He’s struggled offensively. He hasn’t got the looks offensively that he normally gets. But he’s one shift away from breaking it open.”
Tarasenko was a big reason the Blues got through the first two rounds. The 24-year-old had four goals against Chicago, then potted three more versus Dallas. In 14 games, he had 13 points.
Against the Sharks, he doesn’t even have an assist. And if plus-minus still means anything, he’s a minus-four.
“Take away his time and space,” Vlasic said when asked the key to shutting down Tarasenko. “Our forwards have been doing a good job as well supporting us. Good back pressure does not allow them to have one-on-ones with our D.”
Not to downplay the challenges he’s facing, but if Tarasenko doesn’t start contributing offensively, the Blues are going to find it extremely tough to beat San Jose two straight times. During the regular season, he scored 40 of the Blues’ 224 goals. That’s almost 20 percent of them. Yes, some of his teammates need to step up too, but he’s the one with the most goal-scoring talent.
“It’s like any other goal-scorer, when they don’t score, there’s a frustration level that comes in,” said Hitchcock. “It’s my job to make sure and correct the frustration level if I can.”