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“The Russian Three” carrying shorthanded Blues

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With the St. Louis Blues playing very shorthanded over the past several games due to multiple injuries as well as players entering COVID protocol, the team has needed its veterans who are healthy and active to step up in order to keep the season afloat. The trio of Vladimir Tarasenko, Pavel Buchnevich, and Ivan Barbashev has done just that not only during this stretch but throughout the season. With injuries to top offensive players like David Perron and Brayden Schenn, the three Russians have provided the spark on that end of the ice, with Buchnevich leading the way with eleven goals, tied with Brandon Saad for the team lead.

The Best Ability is Availability

Tarasenko was undoubtedly the Blues’ biggest question mark heading into the season. With multiple shoulder surgeries, he has not played a full season since 2018-19. Add in an offseason trade request and it was uncertain in October how many games Tarasenko would play in St. Louis. Fast forward to December and Tarasenko is tied for 2nd on the team in points and along with Barbashev, is the only Blues forward to play in every game so far this season. The two forwards have found great chemistry with one another this year and have propelled Barbashev to the best start in his career, as he is inching towards career bests in goals and points not even halfway through the year. With the team’s depth at the center being tested with injuries to Schenn and Robert Thomas, as well as Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Bozak having stints in COVID protocol, it has been Barbashev’s time to shine and he has made the most of it, with ten goals and nineteen points entering play on Tuesday.

Buchnevich the latest Armstrong trade win

While we are only a few months removed from the trade that sent Buchnevich to St. Louis from the New York Rangers, it is looking safe to say that the Blues have found their next gem from the trade market. Like the O’Reilly and Schenn trades, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong found an opportunity in which Buchnevich was a quality player who the Rangers simply could not fit into their plans due to the salary cap, and pounced on a deal. The winger made a name for himself early in the season after a head-butt landed him a two-game suspension just a handful of games into his Blues career, but since serving that suspension he has become one of the most electrifying players in the Blues lineup. As previously mentioned, Buchnevich is tied for the team lead in goals, but he has also shown signs of being an elite passer and has slightly even more assists than goals. That edge that he plays with suits the Blues perfectly and Buchnevich looks to be a major piece of the puzzle for the foreseeable future.

Is this sustainable?

The Blues have fared surprisingly well through all the adversity that has come their way in the last month, though the play of the three Russian forwards has been integral in that. What remains to be seen is if the three can keep up this pace. History suggests that as long as he remains healthy, Tarasenko will be among the team’s top scorers by the end of the season. The trajectory of Buchnevich’s career suggests that he is scoring on par for where he should be expected. The biggest unknown is Barbashev, who as previously mentioned, is on pace to shatter his career highs in goals and points. With the offensive firepower that is due to eventually return from injured reserve, the team may not need as much from Barbashev as they do now. However, if Barbashev proves that this is the player that he is now, that’s just one more weapon on offense for one of the deepest forward groups in the league.

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