What can be said about Vladimir “Tank” Tarasenko that has not already been exhausted? He is a breath of fresh air, and perhaps the key element missing in years: a ridiculously dominating goal scorer that can make defenders and goalies alike reconsider playing professional hockey. Better than Brett Hull? Go ahead, place that bet – and I love the Golden Brett! With Jori Lehtera, or Stastny, and Jaden Schwartz, alongside Tarasenko (as the “STL” line), just sit back and enjoy the combined international cooperation this line can bring that makes the United Nations envious. Then there's Patrik Berglund. Oh, Bergie, Bergie, Bergie. You are either frustrating or exciting. Talk about a nice guy deserving better, most particularly from himself. Something he readily acknowledges. A Blues draft pick in 2006 with a recently renewed three-year contract, he is playing either for an extended stay or for another team to take notice. Whichever the case, it would be nice for his cup to runneth over before reaching that bridge. Paired with the likes of Dmitirij Jaskin, Magnus Paajarvi (recently placed on waivers) and Joakim Lindstrom, it could be nothing less than Swede…with a little Russian moxie thrown in for good measure.
Despite twelve years, and a Calder Trophy win, spent solely on the Blues' blueline, Barret Jackman gets a lot of grief from disillusioned fans. What does he give in return? Consistency and toughness. Same as Jay Bouwmeester. By all measure, the majority of the defense is still young, but that is no excuse. Alex Pietrangelo has several years under his skates and plays like the veteran he is; yet, he is still learning to be the quarterback of what could be an as-yet-explosive offense and power play a la Al MacInnis or Chris Pronger, while minimizing the miscues. Kevin Shattenkirk is another in that same vein, given to pinching in for the ever-ready offensive spark. Chris Butler is the local boy, while Ian Cole and Carl Gunnarsson are the out-of-towners looking to make an impact. For the most part, they have yet to hit their stride as a potential shutdown defense that would be a relief to the young Jake Allen and the stoic Marty Brodeur. It certainly would give comfort to an ailing Brian Elliot upon his recent return to action.
So, as they approach the new year and second half of the season, is this the team poised for a run at Lord Stanley? With some minor tweaks – rather than the usual mid-season overhaul of years past – and prospects like Ty Rattie, Yannick Veilleux and Petteri Lindbohm, bet on it.
©2014 Steve Sagarra