I need to buy a new thesaurus to keep describing Vladimir Tarasenko.
The Blues began their bridge & tunnel back-to-back in Madison Square Garden against the defending Eastern champions on Monday night, having won 4 games in a row. Much of that success was on the back of the 5 goals in the past week scored by the newly minted NHL #1 star of the week, and the trend would continue in Manhattan.
But before Chekhov's gun could go off, we needed to get through the heavy, poorly paced act one exposition that plagues any good Russian play. (Seriously, you can probably read the cliff notes for the first act of The Cherry Orchard and only see the last two acts and you wouldn't miss very much. But I digress...)
The Blues came out of the gate only in the most technical sense of the phrase, putting only 4 shots on goal the first 20 minutes. The Rangers put a whopping 15 on Brian Elliott (while maintaining a 67.9% fenwick share), but Ells stood tall and only allowed one puck past him, a power play goal where Chris Kreider - one of two Blueshirts to sneak in behind Alex Pietrangelo - got a quick tip on a Matt Hunwick shot. As cliche as it sounds, Elliott had next to no chance on it. As all nightmares do, however, the first period ended, and mercifully without a multiple goal deficit.
After intermission, the Blues really picked up the pace, producing 19 fenwick events - 17 of which were on goal - to the Rangers' 11. But none was bigger than this play, on the power play at 7:18. I won't even attempt to describe it...
Seriously, see that again from the New York perspective:
Eat your heart out, Peter Forsberg.
That tied the game at 1-1, which it stayed into the third period. Then, as brilliantly executed as Tarasenko's goal was, the Blues 2nd goal...was not. Patrik Berglund collected a loose puck near the top of the right circle and ripped one, which was saved by Cam Talbot 's blocker. IceBerg then tripped over a fallen Dan Girardi, as the rebound came out far to the left point, where Barret Jackman took a chance on net that bounced off of a clueless Bergie's skate. Seriously, Berglund didn't even know where the puck was until he saw it in the net, but he got credit for the goal. Any port in a storm, I suppose.
A few minutes later, the Blues were caught on a long shift in the defensive zone but could not clear the puck. The 'Gers made them pay, with Carl Hagelin making a magnificently placed backwards pass behind the net to Martin St. Louis, who had snuck in underneath an exhausted Petro to tap it in around the near post to tie the game at 2-2, 6:28 into the third.
Then with less than 7 minutes left in regulation, Chris Porter lost a scrum along the boards in the offensive zone. Derick Brassard played it up to Little Marty, who made an outlet pass to Rick Nash. The two of them got a speed rush going into the Blues zone, where Nash made a centering pass around Jay Bouwmeester, which St. Louis was able to tip in far post after Pietrangelo fanned on the clearing attempt. New York went up 3-2.
Not long after that however, Petro led a rush into the Rangers zone. He tried to get it to Tarasenko, but Frank was covered so he one-touched it back to Jori Lehtera with no effort whatseover. Jori left his signature drop pass for Bouwmeester, who clanged home his first of the season off the post to tie the game with 5:27 to go in the third.
Kevin Shattenkirk was caught slashing Girardi's stick in half 37 seconds before the end of regulation, putting the Rangers on a power play that would extend into the overtime. It would even see Rick Nash seemingly end the game by banging the puck off the post and in, however the puck stayed out of the net & Elliott hauled it in for a faceoff instead.
The Blues won in the shootout thanks to goals from Alexander Steen and (who else?) the Tank against only our old pal Lee Stempniak for the Rangers. It was the Blues 5 win in a row, all of which have been against playoff teams from last season. Add to that the prospect that Paul Stastny could make his return tomorrow night in Newark, New Jersey, and the Note seems to be sitting pretty for now.
A few quick thoughts:
- Frank's once again getting the headlines - and rightfully so for a number of reasons - but hats off to Elliott for standing tall in the first and throughout the game. Without his concentration in the first, this game is out of hands long before Tarasenko can silence New York City. Perhaps I'm just blanking and not thinking hard enough, but I can't think of either Ell or Jake Allen having a single bad game yet this year.
- Vladimir Tarasenko is not the hero we deserve...but he's the one we need.
- While the 2nd NYR goal wasn't as much on him as I thought at first glance, Petro was either beaten or misplayed all three Rangers goals tonight. Bouwmeester too wasn't his usual self, though fortunately he made up for it with the tying goal obviously. The two of them have been pretty solid since getting paired back together, so I'm not worried about them, but you can't expect to the Blues to pull of very many Ws on nights were Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester get played like they did. They were a -15 and -19 corsi rating respectively in all situations. Yee-ouch.
- Speaking of bad nights, Ryan Reaves' fight was nice, but he was on the ice for 12 corsi events against versus ZERO for. Maxim Lapierre meanwhile did get one positive corsi event - to go with 15 against. David Backes, who concussion aside has not had a memorable first 11 games, started 62% of his even strength shifts in the offensive zone, but still finished with only a 42% ES CF. If Paulie is able to go tomorrow night, I would think long and hard about sitting Cap out a night and giving him a rest, because he's clearly not completely over his head injury, and we cannot have this turn into a lingering thing all year...not to mention the well documented long-term life effects.
- Sometimes it feels like you need all 5 skaters plus your goalie in the crease to stop the puck. Good strategy there. I bet that still wouldn't stop Vladi, though.
- Just in case anyone was starting to think Tarasenko is only a one-way player, he made a great little play on the backcheck on Lee Stempniak that held him up at the blueline for only a moment, but which forced Dutchie's teammates offside for the whistle. Not to play that card, but let's just say there are some high profile Russian offensive forwards who would hardly ever even be in that position, let alone execute that play to perfection. It's the kind of play you'd expect from a Vladimir Sobotka or a Jay McClement.
- Speaking of General Lee, remember when Stempniak was the Blues most dangerous, exciting goal scoring threat? My, how far we've come.
We're back at it tomorrow night, when Jake Allen will lead the Blues at The Rock to take on the Devils.