From the beginning of the season to the NHL ASG, the Blues have seen themselves play at their best and at their worst. Their October was stellar and put them in the race for the President’s Trophy. The Blues were 10-2-1 in the opening month of the season, back when Jaden Schwartz was healthy and the Blues didn’t have a goaltending problem. November was a little worse, but not too bad, with the Blues going 7-5-0 in that month. December, things went downhill because problems and holes in the team started arising. Schwartz got hurt, the defense started to collapse on top of Jake Allen, who would end up taking the brunt of the damage because he lost his starting job to backup goaltender Carter Hutton. The Blues went 7-7-1 in December, and so far in the new year of 2018, they are 2-2-1. With the Blues riding a downward slope, there is some good news amongst the negative. Recently, newcomer Brayden Schenn and Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo were named to the ASG.
This seems great…except for that there is one name there that is usually there, but was left out of the ASG this time around. That name is Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko, who leads the Blues in goals, is second on the team in assists, and is tied for first place in points. Of course, if Jaden Schwartz were not hurt, one would expect him to have been elected to the ASG this year. Why didn’t Tarasenko make the All-Star Game over Brayden Schenn or Alex Pietrangelo?
One stat we can point to for why he did not make it over Schenn is his +/-. While Schenn has a score of 17 in this statistic, Tarasenko is just a point lower with 16. This may not seem like much a difference, but it does show that the opposing team has scored a little more with Tarasenko on the ice than Schenn. Another thing that Schenn has on Tarasenko is that his rise to this breakout offensive level was surprising. We have already pointed out before that Vladimir Tarasenko, statistically, is having an average Tarasenko season, so it is not too shocking that he has 19 goals through 46 games. However, it is shocking to many fans that Schenn has 17 in 46 games as well, and that he is tied with Tarasenko for the team lead in points. Schenn was also named the NHL Third Star of November, so Schenn’s season has gotten national attention. Tarasenko’s has not. This may not seem fair to a player like Tarasenko, but with Schenn’s recent successes, it is not shocking that fans would choose him over Vladi when voting for participants in the ASG.
Alex Pietrangelo’s case is a bit blatant simply because he is a defenseman and Tarasenko is a forward, and each All-Star team needs two defensemen. However, we will argue this as if this weren’t the case. First of all, his +/- isn’t too great. Pietrangelo has a score of 12 to Tarasenko’s 16. However, Pietrangelo does have a good excuse for this being lower than Vladimir’s: his time-on-ice. In just 42 games, Pietrangelo has been on the ice for 816.6 minutes. Tarasenko has been on the ice for 726.5 minutes in 46. His average TOI is 25:34. Tarasenko’s? 19:50. This means that, on average, Pietrangelo is on the ice for around 5-6 minutes more than Tarasenko is. Pietrangelo’s TOI cancels out his lower +/- when it comes to reasons why he was elected to the ASG and Tarasenko wasn’t. Just for fun, Schenn’s TOI average is 19:34.
When looking at Tarasenko’s season, it seems like he is doing perfectly fine, and any other year, his play would even be considered fantastic. However, at a time when the Blues are at their lowest, what may hurt Tarasenko the most when being considered for the ASG was the fact that he was a leader on a team that was not doing so hot. Tarasenko is an assistant captain this year, and he was donned this honor due to his outstanding leadership and extraordinary performance on and off the ice. With the Blues doing so poorly, it does not reflect well on Tarasenko. One could say the same for Pietrangelo, but no one is used to Pietrangelo scoring a bunch of goals to keep his team afloat or making the right pass and formulating the right play every single second of every game. No one expects that out of Pietrangelo. They expect Pietrangelo to get his mitt in the face of certain players and to be the one to step into a scrum and defend his team. There is so much more pressure on Tarasenko to be phenomenal, and when he doesn’t live up to this expectation or someone else who is phenomenal comes along and steals his spotlight, fans become disinterested in the season of a player who is having an average season for himself. Perhaps the reason why Tarasenko didn’t make it lies solely on the fact that he is not Jaden Schwartz or Brayden Schenn.