Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko

ST. LOUIS -- It would perhaps be a bit harsh to call the 2017-18 season tumultuous for Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko.

Putting up 66 points (33 goals, 33 assists) would hardly classify as a down year for many. But for Tarasenko, even by his own admission, it would be classified as a down year.

Sort of like the rest of his team.
Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko

Tarasenko did lead the Blues in goals for the fourth straight season, but the end of his season was sort of a microcosm of the up-and-down season he endured when he dislocated his shoulder in the season-finale against Colorado.

Surgery followed and Tarasenko has a recovery timeline of 4-6 months, and like his teammates, he has the time to heal after the Blues missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.

Tarasenko's 66 points this season are the fewest for him since the 2013-14 season, his second in the league, and as the Blues' game-changer, he expects more of himself even though he had a career-high 306 shots but the second-lowest shooting percentage of his career (10.8 percent).

Before he went into surgery last Wednesday, Tarasenko spoke of the disappointment of the season as a whole despite the Blues finishing with 94 points, two short of reaching the playoffs, the injury, what happened with the power play, playing on a top line with Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn, :

How are you feeling?
I feel good. Tomorrow surgery. We'll see how it goes. (Tarasenko has since had the surgery and it went well).

What's the injury?
Dislocated shoulder. 

Looked like you knew it right away. Was it a bad feeling knowing you got hurt in such an important game?
The longer you play, the better you can find out if it seriously hurts or no. When it don't go away for like 10-15 seconds, you really know (it's) something serious. Of course I'm really upset it's happened in most important game of the year. It's really bad feelings to be in the locker room when the guys try to fight for a (playoff) spot.

Was it especially tough because you were going so well when you got hurt?
Whatever how was it before, the one game, everything was on the line and I don't really think about how I go before because everything, like all our minds was on that game. It's especially hard injury at that time.

What do you think happened to the team after such a fast start to the season?
I don't know. All teams go through up and downs in the year. The teams that handle it better get more success, but we don't handle it well. I take (responsibility) of it, too. I know I need to play better. I know everyone try to leave everything what we have on the ice. Something just not go the right way this year. It was a hard year everywhere around, a lot of injuries. Now we have time in the summer for those guys, like 'Army' [Doug Armstrong] and Mike [Yeo], to find out what was wrong. Of course we make our fans upset, we make ourselves upset, too. I just want to say thanks for support, especially for our families, for our friends to be with us. We will play better.

How tough is it not to be in the playoffs?
There wasn't question like five years before if we were going in the playoffs or not because we usually clinch before the last games. It is tough, and it's tough for over the season in April. Even if I don't take injury, it sucks. Like, I don't know what to say. It's really bad things. We just need to turn to ... like every day is getting worse and worse because emotions calm down and then you find out your season is over. It's not really what you want to reach for your goal.

Do you know the timetable of your injury, when you'll be back?
We have six months before season starts now because we don't make playoffs, so I think this will be enough time to recover.

The two top teams [Nashville and Winnipeg] in your division are built to win. What do you think you need to add in the offseason for you to be that team that's built to win?
It's obvious there's supposed to be some moves by 'Army,' but it's not on us to say what we need. It's other guys' job. Our job is just to go on the ice ... if we all stay on this team, just go out there and give 100 percent every night and let those guys decide who's playing and who's not.

What do you think happened with the power play and why it struggled so much?
I think (we) just tried too much. Sometimes we need to just simplify this. We have good players playing together trying to make it look nice, but it doesn't work this year and it doesn't connect. Obviously it's one of the reasons why we don't have success. Like I said, I take it on me to and blame myself because it's on me and I need to do it better, too.

What would you like to improve in your game?
It was weird year for me because I never hit so many posts and this puck doesn't go in sometimes. When it's happened, it's hard to handle. It gives you frustration to the next level. I just need to be more consistent and now I have time to work on my shoulder and stay healthy all year. I just need to get more goals.

Did you try to find yourself to be too perfect with your shot sometimes when it wasn't going in? Was that part of the frustration when it wasn't going in?
I don't know. I got the eye surgery last summer so maybe I could see it better and try to put it on a perfect spot. Sometimes and a lot of people have told me if you put it like 20 centimeters lower, you're still going to score. It's what I think during the summer and like I said, just play better.

How much fun was it playing with Schenn and Schwartz on a line?
It was ups and downs. Like sometimes puck doesn't go in. Sometimes we have 20 scoring chances a game and we don't score like one goal. It's hard to handle, but it was really fun time playing together. I think we score a lot of goals and have a lot of fun. Everything we're thinking now is upset because we don't make the playoffs and we don't play anymore.

Have you had any surgeries before?
I have a couple. 

You have a couple teammates in Patrik Berglund and Alexander Steen that have had to deal with shoulder injuries. Can those guys help you?
My father got three surgeries on shoulders, so I have all the relationships with guys, so he cal help me, too. But I talk with these guys already. I never feel without support here. Guys always help me and everything just good in this way because if there's one positive moment on this team is when somebody have problem, everyone try to help him. I don't think people feel alone over here.

What happened to cause the injury? It didn't look bad.
Shoulder dislocated. I don't know. Hockey is weird sport in a way when you can get heavy hit, you don't have nothing and then you can have small bump that cost you like six months. It doesn't really matter how it happened because it's still same injury, but for me, the most upset part is it happened in that game especially.

You mention the fans. They mean a lot to you, don't they, and can you understand their frustration of not making the playoffs?
You perform for yourself, you perform for your families because your kids are watching and your wife, your parents. But of course these people in the rink, you try and make them happy because they cheer for you. They support us all the time, especially last games here. Like I said, you just blame yourself for not making it, but we tried to. We tried to til the end. We don't give up. We all need to be better and say sorry for not making it. We let them down without the playoffs.

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