Vladimir Tarasenko makes his first return to St.Louis since his trade to the Rangers when the Rangers take on the Blues tonight. Niko Mikkola also makes his return while the Rangers will face off against old friends Sammy Blais and Pavel Buchnevich. All three players involved in the trade on February 9th have had a good impact on their new teams and they will each get to prove it tonight as they face off. Let’s go into detail on how each player has played so far and what can they provide for their teams going into the future.
Let’s start with Vladimir Tarasenko. Prior to the trade from the Blues, Tarasenko had 10 goals and 29 points in 38 games as he was injured for parts of this season. It had been known that Tarasenko wanted a trade from the Blues for years and that he was going to test free agency this summer if he was not traded. So the Rangers and Blues came together and made a trade happen.
While it has taken a while for him to find his game on a new team, Tarasenko has fit in very well with the Rangers. In 27 games with the Blueshirts, he has scored 7 goals and 17 points. He has played the majority of his time with Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck and they have looked very good together. He is getting power-play time on the second unit and he is finally getting more comfortable shooting the puck we all know how deadly of a shot he has.
As we go down the stretch, Tarasenko will have relied on more if Patrick Kane is out for the rest of the regular season. His shooting is going to become very important in the playoffs as the Rangers are a pass-first team and need him to shoot the puck.
Mikkola has had a rollercoaster ride since he came to New York. He started on the third pair with Braden Schneider and when Lindgren got injured, his role suddenly changed. He became the top-pairing defenseman with Adam Fox and he played well during the time Lindgren was out. He has been good defensively and has jumped up in the rush a few times and when he does, it shows how good of a skater he is.
Now that Lindgren is back, he can settle back in with Schneider as the third pair and he can get comfortable playing the role he was brought in to play. At least now we know that he can play a bigger role if needed.
Now we get to the true shock of the trade, the Sammy Blais comeback tour. If this trade has shown anything, it’s that Blais truly loves playing with the Blues. We all know the struggles Blais had in New York and that he never scored a goal with the Rangers. That all changed when he returned to the Blues. In 27 games, he has scored 8 goals and 19 points on the struggling Blues.
At one point, people were saying that the Blues won the trade just because Blais has more goals than Tarasenko, but we know that is not true. It is good to see Blais having a good time with the Blues and we can expect him to score a goal tonight, as it is certain that former Rangers always score against them in these games.
This trade has been a win-win for both sides. The Rangers got exactly what they needed to fill the holes in the lineup and the Blues got futures for a player who was not going to come back. Blais has also been a surprise for them and he got a contract extension with them because of his good play. Even if both Tarasenko and Mikkola walk this summer, if the Rangers win it all, the trade was a win because nothing is more important than winning the Stanley Cup.
As the playoffs get closer, let’s hope Tarasenko and Mikkola can be a big factor as the Rangers chase for the hardest prize to win in sports.