Without leading scorer Tarasenko, defending champs simply must
find a way; winning lower-scoring games best course to take for success
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues know Vladimir Tarasenko is not coming back, and he won't be around -- at least on the ice -- for a very long time.
The news was not good on Tuesday when general manager Doug Armstrong announced Tarasenko, their leading scorer, would have surgery on his dislocated left shoulder that will sideline the Russian sniper for at least five months.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) scores past Wild goalie Devan
Dubnyk and defenseman Ryan Suter in a 2-1 win on Wednesday.
So moving on without an average of 71 points (36 goals, 35 assists) the past five seasons will not be easy, so the Blues will have to win more of the types of games they won Wednesday, 2-1 over the Minnesota Wild at Enterprise Center.
It was not pretty by any means for the Blues (7-3-3), who at times struggled against of the Western Conference's worst in the Wild (4-9-0), who are now 1-8-0 on the road. But much like a 5-4 overtime win at Detroit on Sunday, the Blues are still finding ways to win.
This is how it's going to have to be at times when it doesn't look pretty, when the Picasso doesn't come out the way they want it, simply find a way.
On Wednesday, they found a way.
"I said it to you guys in Detroit, this is a couple games in a row, we just found a way to win, but I think it's time for us to start stringing things together here," said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who scored the tiebreaking goal 1 minute 39 seconds into the third to break a 1-1 tie.
"A team coming off back-to-backs. I think we had moments where we controlled the game, but I think we can be a little more aggressive when we have teams that come in late and play. We know what it's like playing those back-to-backs. It's not easy."
The Blues, even with Tarasenko in the lineup, simply never struck you as the kind of team that will win 5-4, 6-5, 7-6 types of hockey games. That's reserves for the McDavids, the Draisaitls, the Crosbys, the Malkins, those kinds of players. They're more of the muck-and-grind, forecheck you to death, chip pucks, position themselves correctly, and most importantly, which they got on Wednesday from Jordan Binnington with 35 saves, get great goaltending.
"We've got to step up and we've got to be there for each other," Binnington said. "It was a big loss, [Tarasenko's] a great leader for us. At the same time, we've got to keep moving forward and hope for the best for him. He'll be around us to help guide us. I think we did a great job tonight stepping up and scoring some goals.
"I think that was a solid team game. I think the wingers did a good job getting pucks out. They had a lot of pressure from the 'D' pinching. We stuck to our systems and I think it paid off. We know that they played last night and we had to come hard at them because we know that they're a little tired. We just built off that the whole game and stayed strong until the end."
The Blues got a goal from Sammy Blais, who took his audition playing on that top line vacated by Taraseko with Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz. They didn't play a clean game by any means against the Wild, but if this is how they're equipped to play, this is how they're going to have to win, this is where they mold themselves to be battle-tested.
"We're not going to step over everyone," said right wing David Perron, who set up the Pietrangelo goal with a pinpoint seam pass to the slot. "There's really good teams in this league. I thought it was a good performance by us. Pretty solid play for the most part. There's always ways to improve and it's nice to come away with two points and we'll keep looking at ways to improve.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues right wing David Perron (57) gets off one of his 12 shot attempts past
Wild defenseman Ryan Suter in a 2-1 win on Wednesday.
"I always think this team, our structure is to forecheck, play deep and really low down on teams. ... At the end of the day, we're also better equipped if there's situations like Detroit, we can score some goals too. It's not like maybe in the past a few years ago where maybe it always had to be 2-1 or whatever."
When asked if this is how they have to win without Tarasenko, Perron had the best response: "I don't care, as long as we win."