NHL Season Preview: Blues Offense Adds Vladimir Tarasenko

Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

The Blues will have Vladimir Tarasenko on the offense this year, adding a scoring punch and some intimidation factor to a forwards corps that sometimes struggled to score.

So, for all intents and purposes, the Blues are set at defense (and, of course, in goaltending). How do the forward corps look? Hoo boy.

We'll probably see the T.J. Oshie - David Backes - David Perron line as the top line again. If Ken Hitchcock maintains his vision for the future, the second line will be Alexander Steen, Andy McDonald, and new Russian sensation Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko's one of the most anticipated new additions to the Blues in years. No one is neutral on this guy -- his first goal wearing the Note will probably blow the roof off of the Scottrade Center. He's smart and should utilize McDonald's speed much like he's utilized Ilya Kovalchuk's speed during his time in the KHL.

So, if the top six are set, and it seems like that's where the scoring is going to come from, what can the Blues due to encourage it? It's not like the Blues have a shortage of guys who can score, but the system encourages defense, which means that you're not going to get the huge blowout offensive fireworks shows that some other teams can ice. Intelligent scoring and solid defense worked for the Blues last year, and there's no sign that it won't work for this season.

What would be helpful would be increased scoring from Matt D'Agostini and Chris Stewart, two guys who will be on the third line and two guys who should be capable of much more. Last season D'Agostini had nine goals and nine assists in 55 games. In 2010-2011, D'Agostini netted 21 goals and 25 assists.

D'Agostini, along with Perron and McDonald, missed significant time due to injury, depriving the Blues of probably an additional 25 goals between the three of them. Stewart, however, couldn't use injury as an excuse. He had 15 goals and 15 assists, which isn't bad, but it's also not what he's capable of. He was also a +1 on a team where defense came first. if you factor in his undisciplined play at times (109 penalty minutes for someone who should be on the ice as much as possible isn't the best thing), Stewart could be a flat-out liability.

The third line should have Patrik Berglund teamed up with Stewart and D'Agostini, which gives the Blues three potentially solid offensive scoring lines if things click correctly. The fourth line'll probably be centered by Vladimir Sobotka with Ryan Reaves and returning player Jamie Langenbrunner on the wings. It's not mind-blowing depth, but I can't see anything on the team that's not to love. Playoffs? Barring disaster, absolutely. More than the second round? If things find some focus, I could see some conference finals in the Blues' future.
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