The Blues returned to the ice for a real game on Wednesday night, their first at home since Dec. 17. The break in the schedule made the fans hungry for hockey. The faithful sold out the Enterprise Center, filling the arena with the blue-garbed bodies, full-throat noise, and a festive, holiday spirit. The home team did its part by doubling up Edmonton on the scoreboard for a 4-2 victory. The Note is 6-1-1 in the last eight games, producing a .813 points percentage that ranks sixth in the NHL since Dec. 7. Bravo.

Let the good times roll.

And let’s roll four lines.

FIRST LINE: The way the Blues are going, coach Craig Berube could pick the game-night lineup out of a helmet, drawing names to fill his four lines and defensive pairings. Doesn’t matter. And even if the Blues are short by a player, hey, no problem. Last-minute scratch? Wednesday night it was Pavel Buchnevich, who was ailing with a non-Covid fever. That’s OK; get some rest Booch. Berube will go with what he has and the Blues will hustle for wins.

The Blues have played 13 games since the day after Thanksgiving. Because of injuries and Covid and Covid variants, Berube has used more lineups than the 2021 Cardinals. Or so it seems.

In the 13 games the Blues have deployed 25 skaters, and four goaltenders – with a fifth goaltender in reserve and seated on the bench for one game. In the 13 games – record 8-2-3 – the Blues have gotten goals from 18 players, and assists from 21.

Only seven skaters have competed in all 13 games. David Perron missed 11 of the 13. Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas each were out for six of the 13. Jordan Kyrou and Brayden Schenn were unavailable for nine of the 13. Klim Kostin didn’t play in 12 of the 13. And Oskar Sundqvist, Ivan Barbashev and Buchnevich have missed multiple games.

During this impressive 8-2-3 display of resourcefulness and determination, goaltenders Jordan Binnington, Ville Husso, Charlie Lindgren and Jon Gillies combined for league’s sixth best save percentage (.927) at even strength.

With considerable help from the emergency squad stationed at Springfield – Doug Armstrong’s army – the Blues have stayed upright, impressively moving forward with only the occasional slip.

The Blues have not only earned points in 11 of the 13 games to maintain their consistency through all of the infirmities – they’ve outscored opponents 47-34. This is awesome stuff. Do not take it for granted.

“I think we miss a lot of guys this year,” Vladimir Tarasenko said Wednesday after his one-goal, two-assists performance against Edmonton. “I think it’s coming from the coaching staff and from the team. At this point, anything can happen and you need to be ready for whatever is happening. When you miss guys, it’s always sad when the guys don’t play, but the key is to just to keep working harder and work more together, work collectively and I think teamwork gives us success this year.”

SECOND LINE: The Blues notched another power play goal Wednesday, with Brandon Saad’s late score providing a two-goal cushion that put the Oilers away. The special teams have been the undercarriage of the Blues’ recent success.

In going 8-1-1 in the last 10 games, the Blues have outscored opponents 7-1 in the crucial special-teams battle. Over the 10 games the Blues have a 27 percent power play success rate and have killed 16 of 17 penalties (94%). Over the last 13 games, while compiling their 8-2-3 mark, The Note has an 11-5 edge in power play goals – with seven different Blues scoring PP goals. That includes three from Barbashev and two apiece by Tarasenko and Saad. And then there’s Buchnevich, who has a goal and five assists on the power play in his last 12 games.

THIRD LINE: How about Tarasenko? After expressing his disappointment over the NHL’s decision to pull the league’s players from the upcoming Olympics in China, Tarasenko responded the right way. He did not pout or sulk. He got after it with a three-point night against Edmonton. And his goal was a biggie, reclaiming the lead (3-2) for the home team after the Blues had squandered an early 2-0 lead. Earlier, Tarasenko’s give-and-go assist on the Thomas goal was a work of art. It gave the Blues a quick 1-0 lead.

Tarasenko gave the Blues some determined backchecking against the Oilers. And perhaps the influence of Buchnevich is making Tarasenko a more willing competitor in the defensive end.

And Tarasenko, 30, is sounding like a team elder now.

“The key for success is being unselfish,” Tarasenko said. “It’s not only us, it’s whole team. You see the guy open, you pass the puck to him. I think that’s what the coaches teach you since you’re very, very young. I’ll be happy when other guy score.”


Tarasenko Facts:

Since ending his 10-game scoring slump, Tarasenko has 13 points in eight games with six goals and seven assists.

His 13 points since Dec. 7 lead all NHL players. And over the same stretch he’s tied for the league lead with eight points (four goals, four assists) at five-on-five.

Tarasenko has really ramped it up over the Blues’ last four games, drilling for five goals with four assists In the last four games 29.4% of his shots on net have turned on the red light.

The Blues are 5-0 in the last five games in which Tarasenko has scored at least one goal.

Tarasenko leads the Blues this season in goals (13) and points (32) and is second with 19 assists.

Tarasenko’s current pace of 1.4 goals per 60 minutes matches his goal-scoring rate in 2018-2019.

In 17 home games this season, Tarasenko has nine goals and 14 assists to lead the Blues with 23 points. He had 16 points in 19 home games over the previous two seasons combined. Tarasenko’s past two seasons were ruined by ongoing shoulder injuries, but he’s clearly back to 100 percent in hockey health, form, and attitude.

FOURTH LINE: The line of Kyrou, Thomas and Tarasenko outscored the Oilers 2-0 at five-on-five despite having only 34.8 percent of the shot attempts and 33.3% of the shots on net while on the ice. At five-on-five the line’s expected goals percentage was only 32.9 percent. I don’t offer this as a nitpick, or to find something negative. There’s nothing negative about Tarasenko, Kyrou and Thomas combined for three goals and four assists overall while playing on any line and any situation against Edmonton.

But I throw this in there because it puts the spotlight on an interesting Blues’ trend: they haven’t been the superior team in most of their games – if the gauge is based on shot control and expected-goals metric. During their 8-2-3 stretch the Blues at five-on-five have only a 45% share of shots on goal, a 41% share of high-danger shots on net, and an expected goal-share percentage of 45%. But despite the ominous indicators, the Blues at five-on-five have actually scored 54 percent of the goals, and 50% of the high-danger goals. In other words, they’re outperforming their metrics. Why? Well, we’ve already told you about the dominance on special teams – but that’s a separate area.

When at even strength over the last 13 games the Blues have had the better goaltending, especially on shots from high-danger areas. And the Blues rank fourth in the league since Nov. 26 in the percentage (11.1%) of even-strength shots on net that produce a goal. And the fellas have been opportunistic, scoring at pivotal times. During their last 13 games at even strength the Blues are plus two in goals when tied (12–10) and plus three (5-2) when down by one goal. They’re a plus five in goals (23-18) when the score is within one. Berube’s boys usually have a response when the scoreboard is glaring at them; over the last 13 games they’ve outscored opponents 7-3 when trailing.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

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All stats used here are sourced from Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Reference unless otherwise noted.