The 22-year-old Tarasenko was named the NHL's first star of the week yesterday, after putting up five goals in three games—including his first career hat trick. And then he waltzed into Madison Square Garden and did something vicious:
With a head of steam, Tarasenko sliced and stickhandled his way through three Rangers, which was merely the set-up for what promises to remain one of the prettiest and most unstoppable goals of the season, beating Cam Talbot with a reaching, one-handed (his off hand!) finish. You'll need to go to the very last replay on the video to see it properly, and you very much will want to see it properly.
It's also worth watching from the 23-second mark of the video, just to hear the New York crowd react as they see a replay for the first time. It's safe to assume there were about 18,000 people in the building all with the same facial expression:
It was another banner night for Tarasenko, taken 16th overall by St. Louis in 2010: he set up the Blues' tying goal late in the third, and scored the shootout winner. (It wasn't half as sexy, but a nice little head fake that opened up just enough room on the stick side.)
That's six goals, two assists, and a shootout winner for Tarasenko in the last seven days, and he's pacing the banged-up Blues in both goals and points. His teammates credit a renewed work ethic, on the heels of Olympic disappointment at Sochi, soon followed by a hand injury that put him out the rest of the regular season. Coach Ken Hitchcock says Tarasenko has always been humble, but he's more focused than ever.
"When he first came over, he was just happy to play here," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the 22-year-old. "Now he wants to be a guy that contributes every night. He wants to be a significant player in the League. It's a big difference.
"He wasn't really happy when he came back from the [2014 Sochi] Olympics. He was really unhappy with how much he played [for Russia], what role he played, and he really put a strong focus into really becoming a real good player. I think quite frankly, if he doesn't get hurt post-Olympics, I think he's got 35 (goals) in him last year alone. … He just had a whole different focus. He was very determined in his game. He came back and did that in the [Stanley Cup Playoffs]."
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So, what does a kid with the night ahead of him and a highlight-reel goal in the bag do after the final horn? Same thing he does every night.
"My grandfather [and father] watch all my games. We talk after every game."
And what do they say?
"Same (as) what I tell you … it's only one night," Tarasenko said. "We're happy for you, but try to stay on the same level."
Tarasenko and the Blues take on the Devils in a nationally televised game tonight. There are worse ways to spend your Tuesday.