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Gordo's year-end Blues report card: The forwards

From the Check out all of Gordo's year-end Blues report cards series
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St. Louis Blues V Colorado Avalanche

St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko (91) shoots against Colorado Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) in first period action during Game 3 of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs at Enterprise Center on Saturday, May 21, 2022. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

Vladimir Tarasenko

A year ago he produced just four goals and 10 assists in 24 games while struggling with chronic shoulder injuries. His camp made a trade request last summer, but GM Doug Armstrong did not honor it. Tarasenko set aside the issue by reporting in great shape physically and mentally. His latest surgical repair finally fixed his shoulder and he roared back to his old form: 34 goals, 48 assists in 75 games for a 90-point pace. He followed that by scoring six times in the playoffs.

Grade: A


Blues host Avalanche in Game 4

St. Louis Blues David Perron celebrates his first period goal with Pavel Buchnevich against the Colorado Avalanche during Game 4 of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs at Enterprise Center on Monday, May 23, 2022. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

David Perron

He got healthy for the stretch run and the postseason and played some of the best hockey of his career. Perron scored 18 goals and added 17 assists in the last 32 games of the regular season, then he scored nine goals and had four assists in 12 playoff games. His one-time shot from the left circle became the team’s best power-play weapon. He remained a high-end checker and his heady, aggressive play 5-on-5 set a tone for his team in the playoffs. So what if he took a few too many penalties?

Grade: A


Boston Bruins vs St. Louis Blues

St. Louis Blues forward Pavel Buchnevich (89) celebrates his first period goal during an NHL game between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

Pavel Buchnevich

Armstrong didn’t have to ask coach Craig Berube for his assessment of Buchnevich. He got that information by watching Berube rely on Pavel heavily in all game situations. Buchnevich averaged more than 18 minutes while shouldering big power-play and penalty-killing workloads during his impressive 30-goal season. He finished fast (nine goals, 16 assists in 16 April games) and enjoyed a productive postseason (11 points in 12 games) too. Sometimes he overpasses, but the Blues can live with that.

Grade: A


Blues host Wild in Game 6

St. Louis Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly works against the Minnesota Wild during the first period of Game 6 of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs at Enterprise Center on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

Ryan O’Reilly

His bout with COVID-19 really set him back. After scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace last season, he slipped to 58 points in 78 games this season. But he looked more like his old self in the playoffs while scoring seven goals (four on the power play) and adding four assists. He remained a force in the faceoff circle, winning nearly 57 percent of his draws in the regular season and 54.6 percent in the playoffs. His takeaway/giveaway ratio of 50/26 was typically strong as well.

Grade: A


Boston Bruins vs St. Louis Blues

Blues forward Brayden Schenn comes in for a shot on Boston goaltender Jeremy Swayman in the first period of a game at Enterprise Center on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

Brayden Schenn

When healthy, he played at a high level this season after a disappointing 2020-21 campaign (16 goals, 20 assists in 56 games). Schenn suffered broken ribs on three different occasions this season. After scoring just 10 points in his first 19 games, he scored 48 in his last 39 outings of the regular season while excelling in all phases of the game. He played hurt during the postseason, which helps explain why he didn’t score a goal — but he managed to contribute eight assists.

Grade: A


Philadelphia Flyers vs St. Louis Blues

St. Louis Blues forward Jordan Kyrou (25) takes the puck up ice in the first period during a regular season NHL game between the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Thursday, March 24, 2022. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

Jordan Kyrou

He made the quantum leap from 35 points in 55 games in 2020-21 to 75 points in 74 games this season. He earned an additional 2:10 per game in ice time and boosted his shot rate. He represented the Blues at the All-Star Weekend and he sustained his point-per-game pace from month to month. Kyrou also stepped up in the playoffs while scoring seven times. His lack of strength along the boards is still an issue, though, and he was credited with just six hits all season.

Grade A


Buffalo Sabres vs St. Louis Blues

St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas (18) passes the puck as Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo (21) tries to catch up in the second period of an NHL hockey game between the Buffalo Sabres and the St. Louis Blues in St. Louis on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

Robert Thomas

After his virtual no-show in 2020-21 (three goals, nine assists in 33 games), Thomas broke out with 20 goals and 56 assists in 72 games while playing 5:10 more per game. He improved dramatically in the faceoff circle (49.9 percent win rate, up from 42.6 percent) and finished the regular season with a plus-17 rating. But he learned hard lessons during the postseason when he produced no goals, three assists and a minus-7 rating in his first 10 games. There’s still room for growth.

Grade A-


Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues

St. Louis Blues forward Brandon Saad (20) flips backhand shot on net as Minnesota Wild defenseman Jordie Benn (8) winces in the first period during an NHL game between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Friday, April 8, 2022. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

Brandon Saad

He did precisely want the Blues expected. He averaged 23.8 goals and 48.1 points per 82 games over 9-year span and he produced 24 goals and 49 points for the Blues this season. Berube likes predictable players and THAT is predictability. Saad shouldered a 22.1 percent penalty-killing load and overall he delivered a 45/25 giveaway/takeaway ratio. But his production came in hot streaks and no such streak occurred in the postseason as he produced five points in the 12 games.

Grade: A-


Blues come back for 4-3 win over Lightning

St. Louis Blues center Ivan Barbashev (49) gets off a backhanded shot while defended by Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta (44) during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. The Blues scored four unanswered points to win the game in shootouts 4-3. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com.

Ivan Barbashev

Prior to this year he never scored at a greater than 31-point pace. So his 20 goals and 34 assists with a 23.4 shooting percentage in his sixth NHL season screamed “outlier.” Berube gave him every chance in the regular season, increasing his offensive zone starts, giving him 31.9 percent of the power-play time and boosting his average ice time by 3 minutes. But Barbashev played his way back into a lesser postseason role while producing no goals, two assists and a minus-6 rating in 12 games.

Grade: B+


St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators tied 1-1 after first period

St. Louis Blues forward Alexei Toropchenko (65) chased down Ottawa Senators defenseman Artem Zub (2) in first period action in a game between the St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at Enterprise Center. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

Alexei Toropchenko

He quickly became a Berube favorite with his straight-line play and exploitation of his size. He skated well, managed the puck, won board battles, added net front presence and avoided bad penalties. It’s notable that he arrived as a midseason call-up and played in all 12 postseason games. He scored just two goals and two assists in 40 regular season and playoff games, so he must learn to generate more scoring chances with his fourth-line role.

Grade: B+


Blues look for playoff berth against Minnesota

St. Louis Blues Nathan Walker's shot is deflected by Minnesota Wild goalie Cam Talbot in the first period at Enterprise Center in downtown St. Louis on Saturday, April 16, 2022. Teammate Ivan Barbashev scored off the deflection for a 1-0 lead. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

Nathan Walker

He turned 28 this season and finally earned his first sustained usage at the NHL level. After playing just 25 games in parts of five seasons for the Capitals, Oilers and Blues, this veteran minor leaguer got in 30 games for the Blues this season after dominating (47 points in 44 games) at the AHL level. He scored five of his 12 points this season in his first three Blues games, but speed and energy in a fourth-line role kept Berube’s attention and earned him a postseason look.

Grade: B+


Blues 6,  Blue Jackets 3

Blues forward Dakota Joshua, plays off Blue Jacket defender Andrew Peeke in the second period on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

Dakota Joshua

He earned another 30 games at the NHL level, contributing eight points and landing 77 hits in his fourth-line role. He got in a few playoff games as well. Joshua did his usual solid job in the faceoff circle (53.3 percent win rate) and he also picked up his scoring pace in the AHL (24 points in 41 regular season and playoff games) for a very good Springfield team. Joshua is 26 and an unrestricted free agent, so is due to get a one-way contract somewhere.

Grade: B


St. Louis Blues V Los Angeles Kings

With pressure fron Los Angeles Kings center Rasmus Kupari (89), St. Louis Blues center Tyler Bozak (21) clears the puck with his skate during second period action during a hockey game between the St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, at Enterprise Center. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

Tyler Bozak

After an utterly disastrous first half, when he struggled in every way imaginable, Bozak came off the injured list in April and centered the fourth line during the closing games of the regular season and the entire postseason. His veteran presence was welcomed. He won 56.4 percent of his faceoffs during the playoffs, landed 19 hits in 12 games and didn’t record a single giveaway. He scored an overtime game-winner in Game 5 to keep the Blues alive and earn a career highlight.

Grade: C+


Blues come back for 4-3 win over Lightning

Blues center Logan Brown (right) handles the puck behind the net while defended by Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev in the first period of a game on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. The Blues scored four unanswered points to win the game in shootouts 4-3. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com.

Logan Brown

The good news: He played 39 games while earning his first extensive NHL action since reaching the league in the 2017-18 season. The bad news: He became the odd man out of the forward lines in the playoffs after producing just 11 regular season points. He made some progress using his size (6-foot-6, 218 pounds) along the walls, but he lacked the speed and physicality of Toropchenko for fourth-line duty and he wasn’t dynamic enough offensively to play in the Top 9.

Grade: C


Blues trounce Dallas Stars 4-1

St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist (70) is tripped up by Dallas Stars center Luke Glendening (11) as they chase after the puck during the third period of a NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars at Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. The Blues pulled out a 4-1 win for the second time in a row over the Stars. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com.

Oskar Sundqvist

Injuries took a toll on this once-critical member of the supporting cast. He produced just four goals and 11 assists in 41 games before moving on to the Detroit Red Wings in a trade for defenseman Nick Leddy. His giveaway/takeaway rate slipped into negative territory for the Blues this season. His possession metrics were dismal — due in part to his career-high 71.5 percent defensive zone starts — and his hit rate was well off of his peak 2018-19 levels.

Grade: D+


Blues host Predators

St. Louis Blues Klim Kostin works against Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators in the first period at Enterprise Center in downtown St. Louis on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

Klim Kostin

He’s big, he skates well, he has an NHL-caliber shot and he’s not averse to mixing it up. But Kostin has yet to play with the consistent pace and focus needed to flourish in the NHL. He wasn’t been productive enough (four goals, five assists in 40 games) to stick in a Top 9 forward role this season and he didn’t play with the urgency needed to excel on the fourth line. Kostin played his way back to the AHL for the stretch run and playoffs and, so he faces an uncertain future here.

Grade: D

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