Vladimir Tarasenko didn’t have time to smile Sunday night after a 3-2 overtime win.
For a guy who just scored the game winning goal, Vladimir Tarasenko didn’t look happy. Walk-sprinting to his locker for a beverage as a crowd formed, Tarasenko couldn’t dodge the media, so he stood and answered the mundane, yet required questions.
“Did it feel good to get that one?”
“What are you working on to break up the slump?”
“Does this mean you are human?”
The last one is made up, but you get the drift. Tarasenko is just like any other superstar. He will hit a rough patch, remind you that he is human, and bounce back like never before. In case you missed the bulletin, hockey is pretty fucking hard, and will beat your ass from time to time.
Tarasenko has two goals since Thanksgiving, one of them coming on an empty net against Dallas and the other deciding a game even though it was a failed crossover from backhand to forward that sneaked under the goaltender’s pad.
After a standard start to the season, Tarasenko has hit a rough patch, and sports talk radio shows across St. Louis have tried to work up theories. Brett Hull told Darren Panger that Tarasenko needed to go to the net more, trying to suck up a couple dirty goals. That’s exactly what he did on Sunday, literally shoving a goal into the net to finish off the Buffalo Sabres.
It’s important to remember the kid is still young. He turned 26 years old on Wednesday. Yes, he’s only 26 years old and already owns 159 goals in 373 games. That’s pretty amazing when you think about the first four seasons being spent on a line with Jori “it’s pretty slow outside” Lehtera.
Slump included, Tarasenko is still on pace for an 86 point season, which would rank as a career high. He’s on pace for 49 assists, which would easily tromp his 39 from last year. One of the most underrated things about Tarasenko are his two way game, size, and durability.
- Two way game. Tarasenko is an underrated passer. Did you see him make a slick pass to Vladimir Sobotka on Tuesday against Tampa Bay? It isn’t like the guy is a selfish puck hogging bastard. He knows how to distribute and set up, and while he’s no Sobe when it comes to backchecking, the man can throw his weight around.
- Size. The man weighs 225 pounds, standing six feet tall. Seeing him in the locker room, it is ALL LEGS with this guy. He’s gotten bigger every season, and I’m not talking about stealing Ken Hitchcock’s donuts. He can push defensemen and forwards around when he needs to, creating space. He can also throw down on occasion when a teammate needs backup.
- Durability. Tarasenko has played in more games each season, going from 64 back in 2013-14 to 82 strong last season. With no offense to the talented Jaden Schwartz, the man can’t stay on the ice. Tarasenko can be depended on, which is why the man wears an “A” on his chest.
One of the most tired things I’ve heard around St. Louis is how Schwartz is more important than Tarasenko. Wrong. If I had to choose between the two, I’d take #91 every time. He’s a dynamic scorer, underrated passer, and developing iron man on the ice. Teams fear him and not just a certain part of his game. Players like Tarasenko don’t come around that often. Remember the time before he arrived, people were looking at David Backes to end games.
I guess what I’m trying to say is relax. Tarasenko bleeds like any other athlete in sports.
In the 2015-16 season, he only scored three goals in 17 games, starting on Jan. 8 and ending on Feb. 18.
In the 2016-17 season, he only three goals in 16 games, starting on Oct. 20 and ending on Nov. 23.
Shit happens. Elite goal scorers can’t find the net from time to time. At least Tarasenko is still on the ice, hunting.
He’s accumulated 15 shots the past two games, which is better than the 11 he gathered over the previous four games.
Fun fact: Alexander Steen hasn’t scored since Nov. 16. Trust me, there are other people to worry about outside of Tarasenko.
Stay calm, finish wrapping those Christmas gifts (I like Under Armour products btw), and buy more bourbon.