NHL Rink Wrap: Vladimir Tarasenko and the booming Blues

NHL Rink Wrap: Vladimir Tarasenko and the booming Blues
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Thursday’s top NHL players

Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues

For the first time since 2016-17, Vladimir Tarsenko crossed the 70-point barrier. Tarasenko also reached 30+ goals for the first time since 2018-19 while enjoying the best night of any NHL player on Thursday.

Overall, Tarasenko generated a hat trick plus two assists for an impressive five-point outburst. That leaves Vladimir Tarasenko with 72 points (31G, 41A) in 67 games played. The Blues have eight games remaining this season, giving Tarasenko a strong chance to set a new career-high (currently at 75). He may also be able to reach the 80+ point mark if he stays hot.

Blues teammate Robert Thomas was right there with Tarasenko, collecting five assists. We’ll have more on the red-hot Blues in the takeaways.

Other top NHL players from Thursday include:

Thursday NHL highlights

Vladimir Tarasenko didn’t just reach 30 goals on the season, he did it in style. And Tarasenko pulled that move off against Owen Power:

As you likely already know, Tarasenko generated five points in that game.

Circling back to Owen Power, he collected his first NHL point in his second career game:

Frederick Gaudreau scored the overtime game-winner as the Wild beat the Stars. Dallas can at least take solace in grabbing a standings point. Marc-Andre Fleury made amends for a shaky 2-2 goal by setting up that Gaudreau OT tally:

Two hits to watch from the NHL action on Thursday

First, Tom Wilson riled up the Maple Leafs after colliding with Jack Campbell. Campbell seemed OK, if a little shaken, by the hit. Something to keep an eye on, as players occasionally don’t realize the severity of an injury until later.

Brad Marchand was incensed that he received a penalty for a trip that sure seemed to have some leg-on-leg contact with Connor Brown:

Thursday NHL Takeaways

As the Western Conference playoff race turns …

For a deeply detailed look at the Western Conference (and East) playoff races, stay tuned later on Friday for “The Push for the Playoffs.” Here are some quick tidbits, instead:

  • A night after Colorado clobbered the Kings, the Golden Knights faced a different West force in the Flames. In what could be an important win, the Golden Knights beat the Flames handily. With that, the Kings hold the standings advantage (88 points to 87 for Vegas), but the Golden Knights hold a game in hand (VGK games remaining: 7; LAK GR: 6).

Most realistically, that battle for third in the Pacific Division will decide the fate of the Kings and Golden Knights. That said, there’s some room for movement if one of the two wild-card teams (both currently Central Division squads) fall hard. After the NHL games on Thursday, the Predators (89 points in 74 games played) and Stars (89 points in 74 GP) are only separated by Nashville’s two extra regulation/OT wins (40 to 38).

  • As you saw in the Thursday NHL Highlights, the Stars lost, but finagled a point by falling to the Wild in overtime.
  • Meanwhile, the Oilers distanced themselves from worrying too much about the wild-card races by beating the Predators 4-0.

So, the Kings and Golden Knights are extremely close. The Stars and Predators still have some breathing room, but that could go away quickly if one or both of them finish the season ice-cold.

Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL, and not just due to Tarasenko

When you think of NHL teams peaking at the right time, you’d likely think of the Panthers and Avalanche first. Those two teams are on big winning streaks, and seem headed for a close Presidents’ Trophy race. By crushing the Capitals during the NHL action on Thursday, the Maple Leafs are hot, too, going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.

The Blues are right in that mix, though. They’ve now won seven games in a row, and are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games.

Tarasenko’s certainly been part of the Blues getting hot. That five-point night pushed Tarasenko’s point streak to four explosive games (6G, 5A). That said, this Blues run is about more than Tarasenko. This is a team that can throw a combination of scoring threats your way, and they’re enjoying the rise of Ville Husso.

Ultimately, it looks like this comes down to a battle for home-ice between the Blues and the Wild (who aren’t as hot, but aren’t far off).

Room for a Metro Division title race, but less room for more Eastern Conference playoff shuffling

If you need something to chew on out East, well, Thursday’s NHL games brought good news and bad news.

Good: there’s still room for some intrigue between the Hurricanes and Rangers in the race to win the Metropolitan Division title. By losing to the Red Wings, the Hurricanes’ lead for the Metro Division title remains at two points; both Carolina and the Rangers have seven games left. That includes a head-to-head game at Madison Square Garden on April 26.

Bad: Aside from being road-heavy, the Hurricanes have a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way. Carolina’s won three more regulation/overtime games, so New York’s chances are kind of shaky. (Beating Carolina in regulation would help a lot, though.)

It’s increasingly looking like the rest of the East playoff movement stalled out. The Bruins now trail the Lightning by three points, with both teams having seven games left. With that, it looks like it will be Lightning – Maple Leafs in the unenviable 2/3 Atlantic Division match. It seems highly likely that the Panthers will face the Capitals in the first round.

Now, there’s some room for that to change. The Bruins’ loss to the Senators just makes it harder to believe they can climb enough with so little time left.

(Frankly, the Bruins would probably be better off resting veterans like Patrice Bergeron.)

Friday’s big story

Panthers may deal one of the final blows to any dream of a Jets’ playoff push

Do people think the Canucks and Jets really have a chance to make the playoffs? Or are they just playing coy to try to maintain at least a modicum of interest?

Such questions linger, yet they might not last much longer. The powerhouse Panthers present a real threat toward even a faint dream for the Jets. Florida’s currently on an eight-game winning streak, and the Panthers are chasing a Presidents’ Trophy.

Considering the firepower on both sides, this could be a fun one, even with the lopsided stakes.

If you’re the Panthers, this may not be the worst time to experiment. Want to see how Claude Giroux may fit with different linemates? This could be the game to do it. Prefer to rest a key piece or two down the stretch? That makes sense, too.

Thursday NHL scores

Senators 3, Bruins 2
Blues 6, Sabres 2
Maple Leafs 7, Capitals 3
Lightning 4, Ducks 3 (OT)
Penguins 6, Islanders 3
Red Wings 3, Hurricanes 0
Wild 3, Stars 2 (OT)
Oilers 4, Predators 0
Blackhawks 5, Sharks 4 (SO)
Avalanche 3, Devils 1
Golden Knights 6, Flames 1
Canucks 7, Coyotes 1

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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