Goaltender Jordan Binnington is getting the overwhelming share of attention during this dominant run the Blues have enjoyed since putting him in net halfway through the season, and it’s not hard to see why. The team sucked before he showed up, and now they’re in the second round of the playoffs with a 1-0 series lead on the Dallas Stars. Vladimir Tarasenko, meanwhile, has been in St. Louis since 2012, and through the moderate highs (a conference finals appearance!) and the lows (Jake Allen), it can be easy for a consistent 30-goal scorer to get taken for granted. But if anyone had forgotten how good Tarasenko is, Thursday night’s Game 1 was the perfect reminder. Tarasenko scored his third and fourth goals of the playoffs as he led St. Louis to a 3-2 home win against Dallas.
The first goal, which came on the power play when the game was one-all late in the second, came on a classic Tarasenko snipe from the left circle. The catch here is that instead of lifting the puck off the ice, as per his custom, Vladdy’s goal travels underneath Ben Bishop’s gigantic five hole. But it’s still a beauty.
And then the big game-winner was just a very mean way to embarrass the precocious rookie defender Miro Heiskanen. Tarasenko just outskates the kid, going around him from the outside and beating him to Bishop’s doorstep, where he places the puck perfectly top shelf.
“Just God-given talent,” Blues coach Craig Berube said after the game. “He’s a powerful guy that can skate. When he drives wide like that he’s really tough to handle.”
The easiest way to semi-ignore Tarasenko is to think of him as Ovechkin-lite, seeing as they’re both Russian wingers with a consistently lethal shot. Which, fine, Sacha scores a few more goals, but there is an undeniable and similar pleasure to watching the Blues’ top scorer put pucks in the back of the net. Whether it’s on a standstill shot through traffic, or a breakaway, or after obliterating multiple defenders, the glorious Tarasenko cocktail of speed, creativity, accuracy, and instinct never fails to make me giddy when he gets a goal.
The 27-year-old Tarasenko might not be the Blues’ MVP anymore, but along with Ryan O’Reilly he’s still one of their most crucial forwards. Even though he didn’t score in any of St. Louis’s four wins over Winnipeg in the first round, this latest victory belongs entirely to him. And if they’re finally going to reach a breakthrough in the postseason, they’ll need him to keep it up.