Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Frustrated Tarasenko Needs to Stop Trying for Big Play

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Frustrated Tarasenko Needs to Stop Trying for Big Play

Article excerpt

Blues superstar Vladimir Tarasenko is squeezing the bat too tight, chasing pitches out of the strike zone and essentially getting himself out throughout the Western Conference finals.

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and the Sharks have pitched the ultimate shutout against the Blues' most accomplished and expensive forward.

Surely by now you must be a little stumped with the baseball analogies, but they make perfect sense heading into Game 6, when the Blues will try to stave off elimination Wednesday night to maintain their hope of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.

It would be slightly unfair to blame Tarasenko for the Blues' struggles in the best-of-seven series, but such is life. He's the guy making the big bucks, and this Western Conference finals could define his legacy in St. Louis because you never know how long it might be until the Blues get this close to the Stanley Cup Finals again.

If he's healthy, and he and his coach adamantly claim that he is, then Tarasenko needs to start carrying his weight.

The Sharks deserve plenty of credit for silencing Tarasenko, just as they did Nashville Predators star Filip Forsberg in the second round and Kings star Tyler Toffoli in the opening round.

"What happens with goal scorers when they get frustrated is they look to hit home runs," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "And we need (Tarasenko) to just act like a worker. I know that's a funny thing to say, but he's looking for the home run.

"The guy he's playing against did the same to Toffoli and did the same thing to Forsberg. You can't look for home runs. They're not there. You just got to stay in the program and stay with it a little bit longer and trust your work. It's like anything else."

St. Louis, with the so-called best fans in baseball, surely can appreciate Hitchcock's assessment.

If Tarasenko, 24, made his home at Busch Stadium instead of Scottrade Center, you'd tell him to just take what the pitchers give him. He needs to take what's there, shorten his swing and cover the plate.

In other words, don't swing from your butt in desperation.

The longer the Sharks pitch a shutout against the Blues' Russian superstar, the more he presses and digs deeper into trouble.

"They feel that anxiety to try to score and help the team, but instead of getting further away from the puck it's (necessary to) get closer to the puck," Hitchcock said. "What he's doing is he's trying to catch fast breaks, he's looking to catch the other team napping.

"But when you play against guys like Vlasic you're not going to catch guys napping. You've just got to feel comfortable within the system, playing within the framework and at the end of the day he'll be fine."

Tarasenko is the face of the Blues organization now. He's the one who signed an eight-year, $60 million contract last July.

He was worth every cent of his $7. …

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