Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tarasenko scores twice, including game-winner in OT

Blues down Blue Jackets 3-2; players, coaches talk of 
importance to adjust to slashing calls after eight were made Wednesday

ST. LOUIS -- The rest of the league had its fair share of slashing and faceoff infraction penalties, players and coaches were chiming in on the abundance of them even though it's early in the preseason.

The Blues didn't see many of them in their preseason opener Tuesday in Dallas. They still haven't seem a ton of faceoff infractions -- one was called Wednesday -- but the slashing penalties were plentiful, and the consensus is that they are going to be an adjustment.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players (from left) Magnus Paajarvi, Vladimir Tarasenko, Paul
Stastny and Colton Parayko celebrate a goal Wednesday against Columbus.

Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice, including the game-winner in overtime of a 3-2 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets Wednesday at newly renovated Scottrade Center, but the talk after the game was the amount of slashing penalties called -- eight of them in all including one on Alex Pietrangelo in overtime and another on Columbus' Matt Calvert that led to Tarasenko's goal.

Pietrangelo was especially displeased with his, saying it was more "a one-handed touch to the pants where the guy has double the pads.

"It's questionable to say the least."

It's safe to say that the league and the players are going to have to adjust to the new set of rules, which are meant to protect the players from injury due to slashes to the hands/wrists. 

"Slashes to the hands, yeah they're dangerous, they're trying to protect us," Pietrangelo said.

But ... 

"That's a very thin line that we're talking about," The Blues' captain said. "... That's a lot of power plays and penalty kill, especially for the guys that play one or the other. It's kind of taking the flow out of the game. It's the preseason and hopefully everyone gets to see to get the kinks out and see if it lasts.

"It's going to be tough to adjust. You're talking about some grown men playing a fast game. I agree that slashes to the hands that are dangerous, we've got to get those out of the game. But if you're hitting a guy's pants, it should always be the ref's discretion as it always is. Maybe they can be a little more thorough like the ones right on the hands, but like I said, if you hear pants or shin pads, then it's pretty questionable."

Blues coach Mike Yeo saw firsthand what a slashing call -- or non-call in this case -- can do to a hockey team.

Alexander Steen was slashed at Dallas, a call that wasn't made, and Steen will now miss a minimum of three weeks with a hand injury, so Yeo isn't one that will call out the new approach being taken.

"It can be frustrating, but at the same time, they're letting us know what the standard is going to be," Yeo said. "So it's up to us to make sure we react and start building the habits. If they're going to call it, then obviously the special teams are going to be a huge focus and a huge key to every hockey game. Obviously it was tonight. We win the game on a power play and we had to kill a 4-on-3, a full two-minute 4-on-3 in overtime. It's going to be a huge focus for us to make sure we build the right habits right now. If that's the way it's going to be called, let's make sure we adjust to it.

"There's a reason why they're doing it. Players got hurt last year. You look at what happened to 'Steener' this year, I understand why they're doing it, so I'm not going to sit up here and complain. Those are the rules, so it's up to us to adjust to it."

Tarasenko, the recipient of slashes often, also said the adjustment will need to be made.

"I can't comment on referees, but just ... it's a little bit different for the first time," Tarasenko said. "It gives more power plays more opportunities. You just need time to get used to it. You need time to get used to everything. It's not our decision. We just play hockey.

"It's still not going to change. They can't call all the calls, but not never cry about it. It's still hockey and there's supposed to be toughness in the game. Whatever they decide, we just play. We just listen to our coaches and we go out and play."

As for the game itself, there were good moments and then some others that Yeo can tell can be cleaned up. The Blues' coach acknowledged that there's still some summer hockey to get out of the system.

"We did a lot of good things," Pietrangelo said. "Momentum changed a bit there in the second. We had some good stuff going, then it was penalty after penalty on both sides and our power play kind of bled into our 5-on-5 where we thought we had more time than we actually did that kind of changed the game around. It's Game 2 of the preseason at home. A win's a win."

Forward Samuel Blais continues his good play in the preseason; he got a second straight game after playing Tuesday in Dallas as did defenseman Vince Dunn, who was paired with Colton Parayko. Blais was on a line with Jaden Schwartz, who scored a shorthanded goal in the game and Brayden Schenn made his Blues debut.

"'Blaiser,' I thought big improvement," Yeo said. "I thought with the puck, outstanding. There were only a couple moments tonight where he kind of reverted kind of back to some of the things we talked about. I can see a greater focus in his game without the puck and that's what we're looking for. 

"'Dunner' I thought was an improvement as well. A little more control to his game, but with Dunner, I think still he's got to get a little more ... I don't know if it's respect for the level that we're in. You have to manage the game a little better and that's young defensemen and that's the conversation we'll have tomorrow. I'm not down on him and certainly that doesn't take him out of the mix here. Just looking for improvement. I saw a little bit from last game and would like to see more the next game."

Dunn got the text from Yeo after landing from Dallas that he would play again.

"I was a little surprised finding out last night, but it's a good feeling coming in for a first game in my own rink," Dunn said. "It was a good feeling. I was a little more comfortable getting that first game out of the way.

"(Yeo's) just looking for consistency. With my style of game, I can't be trying to do too much. I think today I took over the game a little bit more than last night. I controlled the play a little bit more, so I think just being consistent there and letting the puck do the work. ... Tonight, I felt more comfortable. I was moving the puck a little better. 'Pary' helped me out being his partner out there. It's a good combo for me and him."

Schwartz made his preseason debut and picked up where he normally leaves off: making his teammates better, according to Yeo.

"I don't know if that's going to be the combination," Yeo said of the pairing with Schenn. "Obviously with 'Schwartzy,' you wish you can clone him with every line because he makes players around him better. I think he got one shift with 'Vladi' tonight and was able to set up the game-winner and those guys obviously have great chemistry. It gives us options though. It's hard not to have chemistry with a guy like 'Schwartzy.' His work ethic and his hockey sense and his skill combined, he's a guy that makes players better."

Ville Husso, who relieved starter Jake Allen at the start of the third period, made a strong debut making nine saves.

"I think he played really well," Yeo said of Husso. "He seems like he's a gamer to me. He covers a lot of net. He's got a good presence in the crease. He's talking, he's engaging players on the ice and to me, that's a good sign."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz (17) scores a shorthanded goal, beating Columbus goalie
Brad Thiessen in a 3-2 overtime preseason victory on Wednesday.

Tarasenko, who scored both Blues power-play goals, found himself in the high slot after getting Schwartz's feed and beat Jackets backup Ivan Kulbakov on a puck that was deflected at 2:58 of OT.

It wasn't necessarily designed that way.

"No, not really, but there are no bad goals," Tarasenko said. "It happened by accident, so I just decided to shoot. It's nice to start at home with the win. We will keep improving and we will be ready for the season 100 percent.

"It's good we have a win. I think everyone was excited to play the game." 

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