Tarasenko unfazed by offensive success, wants progress for Blues

Watch as St. Louis Blues' forward Vladimir Tarasenko scores off the post and in, giving Pittsburgh Penguins' goalie Matt Murray no chance.

Vladimir Tarasenko‘s half-decade in the NHL has been a slow and steady ascension to the league’s upper echelon, but the Russian dynamo said he has a bigger prize on his mind this season.

The St. Louis Blues superstar officially joined the league’s elite in 2015-16, reaching the 40-goal plateau for the first time in his career to establish himself as one of the game’s premier snipers. He followed that effort up with a similar stat line last season, amassing 39 goals and a career-high 75 points.

With the 2017-18 campaign about to begin, Tarasenko said he isn’t fazed by those lofty totals. This time around, he’s looking for more.

“I’m not happy with my last three years,” Tarasenko told NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti, according to a piece published Friday. “Yes, they’re good stats, but not enough for me. Because if you don’t want to be the best, there’s no reason to play. So that’s what I will try to do. That’s why I worked different (this summer). There’s still one goal for us.”

Though Tarasenko’s 40-goal breakout helped the Blues push all the way to a conference final berth in 2016, the team saw that progress halted in 2016-17, getting ousted in the second round by the eventual finalist Nashville Predators.

The Blues’ top offensive weapon is hoping an altered approach to his off-season training helps St. Louis take the next step in 2018.

“I tried to do less weights and tried to do more stuff for balance and stabilizing stuff,” Tarasenko said. “You need to eat the right food and follow the right practice program and I feel better now.”

But part of the equation is more mental than physical, according to Tarasenko, who emphasized the need for a more well-rounded approach to the game.

“It’s just getting more responsibilities with your own end. It’s not only being a good player or scoring a lot a goals,” the 25-year-old told Gulitti. “You need to be a leader on the ice and off the ice, too. So the goals are the same. I haven’t reached it yet, so I will try now.”

While a glut of key injuries have St. Louis facing an uphill battle in regards to reaching their Stanley Cup goals, Blues head coach Mike Yeo said he believes Tarasenko’s two-way develeopment can be a game-changer for the club.

“He’s a guy that wants to make a difference in the game and he does it defensively as well as offensively,” Yeo said. “That’s what you’re asking for from your leaders. You want them to find a way to have an impact on the game and make a difference. 

“When he was young, I think he wanted to make his mark in the game and show that he can score goals and be a dominant player that way. And I think his game is becoming more well-rounded and his leadership has taken another step.”