St. Louis Blues Must Move Vladimir Tarasenko Up A Line

ST. LOUIS, MO - JANUARY 30: Karl Alzner
ST. LOUIS, MO - JANUARY 30: Karl Alzner /

The St. Louis Blues have one of the best scorers in the league with Vladimir Tarasenko. It is hard to be a one man band when your linemates don’t threaten the opponent though.

The St. Louis Blues currently have a dilemma on their hands. They need to keep scoring spread out, because, for the most part, they have a thin lineup when it comes to scoring goals.

The flip side of that is that their current lineup is not being beneficial to their best star. Vladimir Tarasenko is not getting open looks because it is too easy to cover him.

Tarasenko has been doing an admirable job of getting things done. As is his way, he went on a tear with scoring just prior to the All-Star break.

The team’s best scorer plucked six goals from 11 games prior to playing the Colorado Avalanche, just before the break. There have been no goals in the last two games.

You can’t expect him to score every game, no matter what we’d like or what unrealistic expectations we have for him. The way he disappears is concerning though.

Tarasenko does have to shoulder some of the blame for that. He is a big, strong player with skills oozing from his pours. Despite that, he is not always strong on the puck and defers to teammates far too much.

This deep into his career, we need to start assuming that’s just the player he is. You can tell him to shoot more and be more selfish, just as you can lead a horse to water. You cannot make them drink, so to speak.

What might be helpful, though, is to move him back to a line with Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz. Maybe it does not make sense for the entire team, but it might open up lanes for Tarasenko.

The conventional thinking for keeping him on a different line is that teams must choose whether to put top defenders on Tarasenko or the Schwartz line. You see it with other teams as well.

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The Chicago Blackhawks used to constantly keep Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane separated so you could not focus on both at once. The issue is that these Blues are not quite as skilled as those ‘Hawks teams were.

The argument for moving Tarasenko back to that top line is they cannot focus on one player, no matter if it’s their top defenders or not.

Attending the Montreal game in person, there was absolutely no room for Tarasenko at all. He ended up with two shots in almost 19 minutes, and that might be generous.

The Canadiens pretty much sent two defenders his way every single chance they got. That tells us they don’t respect the scoring ability of Paul Stastny and whoever is on the opposite wing on that night – in this case it was Ivan Barbashev. Thankfully, Barbashev made them pay for that strategy.

Not all teams can employ this because they won’t be fresh off a break. Even if you think other players are not as good, it takes energy to double team and track one man. That’s why teams do not do it every single night.

However, the fact that it happens as often as not or more is worrying enough. Put Tarasenko with two legitimate scorers and teams would be committing suicide to employ that defensive tactic.

The argument against moving him is clearly thinning out the rest of the roster again. If Tarasenko could go on a tear without Schenn or prior to Schwartz returning, then he is capable of doing it again.

It would still benefit the team to try it for a handful of games though. Some of his longest stretches of scoring this season were with that line.

Additionally, he just does not seem to click with Stastny the way we would have liked. The two are good players, but if you do not have that chemistry, you can like each other all you want but it still might not work.

Tarasenko is notoriously streaky. The Blues need him to stay on a bit of a hot streak.

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Even if teams put their top defenders on the Blues top line, you still have three threats to worry about. That makes it impossible to double-team anyone.

This does not need to be a permanent switch. However, the Blues cannot stand still and watch other teams send two defenders Tarasenko’s way without response.