It has been a rough stretch for the St. Louis Blues who have been struggling on the ice while seeing players drop like flies with injury, but they could be about to get a welcome shot in the arm with star forward Vladimir Tarasenko closing in on a long-awaited comeback.
Despite sitting second in the West Division behind the Vegas Golden Knights with a record of 10-8-2, the Blues have dropped three straight and are 3-6-1 in their last 10 outings, while they have been banged up more than any other team in the league. Or so it seems anyway.
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Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson was ruled out for the rest of the season on Tuesday, while forward Ivan Barbashev is out for six weeks after undergoing surgery on his left ankle. When you throw in to the melting pot the fact that the Blues were already without defenseman Colton Parayko, and forwards Jaden Schwartz, Robert Thomas and Tyler Bozak, it is little wonder that they have struggled so much as of late.
Good job, then, that they could get a significant weapon back soon in Vladimir Tarasenko, who has travelled with St. Louis as they prepare for a crucial six-game road trip in California, which gives them a chance to fatten up their schedule against teams like the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks, although they will be coming up against a red hot LA Kings team who have won six straight.
Vladimir Tarasenko’s return couldn’t come at a better time for St. Louis Blues
However, having Tarasenko back in the lineup would give the Blues a significant advantage, not to mention giving the rest of the lineup a massive boost which is more than needed given their current struggles and recent run of bad luck with injuries.
Not only will the winger provide some much-needed man power on a roster seriously depleted right now, but Tarasenko should spark an offense into life that is currently ranked 16th in the NHL in Goals For Per Game (2.95), while the power play is ranked 28th in the league (12.9).
When you consider that the Blues’ shooting percentage as a team is just 9.5 percent and they have a Expected Goals For of 15.1 at 5-on-5, then you don’t need to have attended an Ivy League School to figure out that Tarasenko could be the potent weapon this offense needs in order to fire on full cylinders again.
After all, Tarasenko has recorded at least 30 goals in five of his eight NHL seasons, including 33 goals in 2018-19. Boasting a wicked release and an absolute snipe of a shot, the 29-year-old is one of the best pure goalscorers in the NHL and he’ll be a threat at both 5-on-5 and on the power play.
Now, granted, there is a major caveat at play here in that the left-shot hasn’t played since the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs inside The Bubble, where he was held without a point in four games, and there are question marks over how he will look after having two big surgeries on his shoulder in a short amount of time.
Tarasenko has only begun skating with his team this week, appearing on a line with David Perron and Brayden Schenn on Friday, so it remains to be seen at what point in the road trip the Blues will look to put their star forward back into the lineup with the risk of rushing the 29-year-old back too quickly not even worth thinking about.
However, if he’s deemed ready to go and can get his legs under him quickly after such a long time away from the rink, then there is no doubt that the St. Louis Blues will only benefit from having Vladimir Taranseko back in the lineup, and if he can get back to doing what he does best and quickly then that could translate to a turnaround in form for this team.