No one ever expects to lose their home opener. After the anticipation that has been building around this Blues team, it was hoped that their first game this season against the Red Wings would be one to remember. Not only was the team coming back from the long lockout, but there was also a premere in the works. Drafted 16th overall in 2010, Vladimir Tarasenko was finally going to make his NHL debut after scoring 14 goals and 17 assists in 31 games for SKA St. Petersburg. Factor in the Red Wings, and tonight was going to be memorable regardless of what happened.
What happened was unexpected and a very pleasant surprise. The first goal of the game was, in storybook style, scored by Tarasenko on his first shot, completely befuddling Jimmy Howard and scoring high:
To follow up Tarasenko's goal, re-chisled power forward Chris Stewart wanted to start the power play off right. After a Jan Mursak hooking call, Stewart wristed one past Howard. Stewart's dominant play would continue with another power play goal in the 3rd period. Bookending Stewart's first goal, though, was Tarasenko's second goal, just moments into the second period:
Tack on a lovely shorthanded goal by T.J. Oshie and another power play goal by Patrik Berglund, and the rout was complete. The Blues looked dominant on so many levels, but that dominance was made more obvious by how flat the Red Wings were. The word "pylon" isn't one that you would apply to the Wings, but that was their mindset for the evening. They looked like they were still trying to shake off the cobwebs that gathered over the long off-season. They also very much looked like they missed Nicklas Lidstrom.
Jimmy Howard was pulled in the third period after Oshie's goal made it 5-0, but the loss wasn't on Howard. It was because the Wings clearly weren't in this game from the first puck drop. The shots on goal at the end of the game were a terribly lopsided 36-14 in favor of the Blues. Neither Pavel Datsyuk nor Henrik Zetterberg had a shot on goal. Four Blues didn't manage a shot on net tonight, and nine Wings had zero. The Wings basically refused to step it up, and that played into the Blues' hands.
Jaroslav Halak needs two more shutouts to get to the franchise record; if the Wings play this the next time that they meet, Halak'll only need one.
Tonight's three stars, in ascending order were Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, and a very excited Tarasenko. Anyone happy enough to fistbump the mascot during the three stars announcement is pretty thrilled. What a tremendous first NHL game for Tarasenko. I'm sure that there will be more of the same in the future.
There's six for Number Six.