The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.
Vladimir Tarasenko is the game-changer for the St. Louis Blues.
He is their best player, he is one of the best goal-scorers in the entire NHL, and throughout his career he has been money in the playoffs with 27 goals in his first 57 games. That goal per game average not only exceeds his career regular season numbers, but is the second best in the NHL since the start of the 2012-13 postseason (among players with at least 40 playoff games).
Entering Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC), Tarasenko has already scored five goals in the Blues’ first 13 games. That is a really solid number that is good enough for second best on the team, behind only the white-hot Jaden Schwartz. That production includes a two-goal game (including a game-winner) in Game 1 of their Round 2 win over the Dallas Stars.
As good as that production is, it still feels like there is another level he is capable of getting to this postseason because it almost seems as if he’s been a little on the unlucky side.
How so? Well, consider the fact that Tarasenko has managed just a single even-strength goal in the playoffs and does not have a single assist (in any situation), while the Blues have been outscored 7-4 with him on the ice in those situations.
All of that is happening despite the fact that the Blues are controlling more than 56 percent of the shot attempts and have a significant edge in scoring chances when he is on the ice. The territorial edge is there. The chances are there. The puck is just not going in the right net for them. It’s not that Tarasenko is playing poorly, it’s just that the results aren’t yet matching the process yet for him. And there really isn’t much a player can do about that except keep sticking with it. Production isn’t consistent and players always go through hot streaks and cold streaks over the course of a season, and sometimes there isn’t really an explanation for it other than, “stuff happens.”
Tarasenko is experiencing a little bit of that right now.
Still, there are some encouraging things in all of that if you are the Blues.
For one, they made it this far with that happening to their best player and that is a testament to how much better their depth has been in recent years. They haven’t needed Tarasenko to take over and dominate games to win. The other thing is that you have to imagine that Tarasenko is due for a breakout game or hot streak, especially if his line keeps controlling the puck the way it has, keeps creating chances, and if he keeps averaging close to four shots on goal per game.
The Sharks’ offense is rolling with their best players dominating games. If the Blues are going to keep up and win this series they are probably going to need the same from Tarasenko.
He is playing the right way. His line is doing the right things. They just need to hope the puck starts going in the net for them for more consistently.