The St. Louis Blues hold a 2-1 advantage in their first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings, but that is due more to the stellar goaltending of Brian Elliott than to anything the team’s offense has done. The Blues have gotten little contribution from Chris Stewart, David Backes and Jaden Schwartz so far, and the time to change some things in the lineup has come. Rookie Vladimir Tarasenko has yet to make his playoff debut, and the time has come for head coach Ken Hitchcock to move past his distrust of Russian-born players (see: Columbus Blue Jackets, Nikita Filatov) and insert the speedy sniper into the Blues’ top six.
While Tarasenko faded a bit near the end of the season, he still managed eight goals and 19 points in his first 38 games in North America. Some St. Louis media sources were reporting on Monday that Tarasenko had been told to be ready to play, but it won’t be until the game starts tonight that anyone finds out if he will actually get in the game. For all the shots they’ve had against Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, the Blues have only scored four goals in three games, and Alex Steen scored two of those. Tarasenko had three goals and five points on the power play this season, and could be a valuable addition to a Blues power play unit that has gone 0-for-8 over the past two games. Adding an exciting, quick young forward into the mix may not be the one thing that changes the complexion of this series, but at this point it can’t hurt.