Monday, March 28, 2022

Tarasenko, Husso do heavy lifting, help Blues get back on track

Forward reaches 500 points with two goals, assist; goalie bounces back with 
35-save effort in 4-1 win over Canucks, vault Blues back into third in Central

ST. LOUIS -- Craig Berube had one of his Mano a Mano chats again on Monday. This time, it was with Vladimir Tarasenko.

Unlike the recent talks he's had with players either struggling (Pavel Buchnevich) or playing poorly (Jordan Kyrou and Ivan Barbashev), that conversation with Tarasenko was more, perhaps, about beginning to put the team on his shoulders.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Vladimir Tarasenko (middle) celebrates with teammates Brandon Saad (20)
and Brayden Schenn after scoring Monday night in a 4-1 win.

And with the Blues struggling in the month of March, it was a good time for Tarasenko to dent the scoresheet and dent it a couple times; he scored twice and assisted on another, reaching 500 points in the NHL, helping the Blues to a much-needed win, 4-1, against the surging Vancouver Canucks at Enterprise Center.

Tarasenko tied David Perron, who also scored Monday, in goals with 23 but could have many more, at least 30, according to Berube. He's had chances, great scoring chances. Sometimes goalies have made great saves on him, sometimes it's been bad luck, sometimes he's too cute and tries picking a corner, only to miss the net from Grade A scoring areas.

Regardless of how one puts it, the Blues (36-20-9), who leapfrogged the Nashville Predators back into third place by a point and three behind Minnesota for second in the Central Division, need their top gun down the stretch.

Berube wanted him to know that.

"I was talking to him about a few things, but Vladi's been around this team a long time," Berube said. "He's a leader of this team, he's won here. We were just talking about some things that what we see, what's going on.

"Vladi's played well. He's probably not happy in the number of goals that he has because he's had a lot of opportunities. He gets a lot of good opportunities. He was very good tonight. That line was very good. They were on pucks, they possessed pucks, they were heavy. A lot of our guys did it all night. For two periods, I thought that we were really good at possessing pucks and being hard on offense and doing a good job. We've got to continue to do that."

Tarasenko was part of a line with Buchnevich and Robert Thomas that played with a physical edge, helping the Blues to a 28-17 edge in hits. Tarasenko had two hits ot go with eight shot attempts (five on goal), Buchnevich had four hits to match Ivan Barbashev and Brayden Schenn for the team high.

"It helps, that's for sure. You've got to be physical," Berube said. "This game, when you're physical and you're heavy and you got good sticks and you're checking, it's hard to play against you. We need to be more consistent at that."

Tarasenko helped put the Blues on his shoulders on this night; he helped them get out to a lead when Marco Scandella -- yes, Scandella! -- gave them a 1-0 lead at 6:37 of the first period when he was on the doorstep to tap in a Tarasenko shot from a severely sharp angle that caromed over former Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak's shoulder and off the knob of his stick with Scandella crashing the net.

Tarasenko would score a big goal 49 seconds into the third period, knocking in his own rebound to make it 3-0 after a solid cycle and puck-possession shift with his linemates, then capped off his 500th NHL point by wiring a wrister bar down into the open net.

Tarasenko has 241 goals and 259 assists in 589 regular-season games. It's a heck of a feat for a player who came into the season not knowing whether he would be wearing a Blues jersey or not considering the way things went in the off-season due to a trade request following multiple shoulder operations that limited him to 34 games the past two seasons.

"It's a great accomplishment," Berube said. "He's been a very good player for quite a while. He's continuing to be a good player. He's actually a more well-rounded player than when I first got here, seeing him now. His opportunities this year he's had to score goals, he could at least have 30 because he gets a lot of good slot shots."

And when Tarasenko wasn't called upon, goalie Ville Husso was, and after his rough outing against Carolina Saturday in a 7-2 loss, it was a big bounce-back game for the Finnish netminder.

"It's nice to play and it was nice to get a win and after that Carolina game," Husso said. "Wasn't good enough from my myself and it was a good bounce back and 4-1 win.

"A couple soft goals and didn't make those saves when I usually have to make those, but it was nice to get a start right away today and it wasn't easy like after a game like that. But my mindset was good today and got a good morning skate, so I was good to go."

Husso was especially sharp in the second period when he stopped all 17 Vancouver shots (35 for the game) when the Blues were pinned in their zone for longer stretches. They were solid in leading 2-0 after one but killed a penalty to open the middle frame and relented to the Canucks' pressure, which was a combination of their own doing with poor puck decisions and Vancouver's ability to hunt down pucks.

"Yeah, the second he was good," Berube said. "He was good all game but in the second, we weren't that great. They had their power play at the start, but then it kind of just carried forward where we didn't get the puck out, we didn't get the puck out and then when we did, we made a puck play that wasn't very good and then they went back at us so we kind of played a little bit of that style where we didn't have enough o-zone time in the second period and Husso was really good."
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues goalie Ville Husso (35) makes one of his 35 saves on Canucks forward
Tanner Pearson Monday during a 4-1 victory at Enterprise Center. 

Husso, who had allowed four or more goals in three of his previous five starts, said, "As a goalie, you want to make those saves & help the team at good times. And today I made a couple good saves in the second period and kept the game 2-0 and then we score right away in third. That was like pretty much game over."

The Blues needed to bounce back. They had been 3-6-3 in 12 previous games this month, and now they embark on a three-game Western Canada trip, including a rematch with the Canucks on Wednesday, looking to continue to solidify their standing for the playoffs.

"I felt like the forwards played really well tonight," Scandella said. "'Vladi' had a big game. 'Huus' again had a great game. We just weren’t waiting. We were attacking. We were playing kind of in rhythm. One guy was going, we were all reading off of him and getting pucks deep. We weren’t turning it over and giving them odd-man rushes like we have in the last couple games before that. That’s our game. Playing below the goal line. We’re a heavy team. We have a lot of skill. And tonight we put it together."

No comments:

Post a Comment