In terms of professional athletes, Vladimir Tarasenko has pulled off the second stage of a rare doubleheader. As in double heads of state.
The Blues forward has been in both the White House and the Kremlin, and met the leaders of both countries. On Tuesday, obviously, it was U.S. President Donald J. Trump and the White House during a Rose Garden ceremony recognizing the Blues’ Stanley Cup championship.
“That’s a really great experience,” Tarasenko said. “You always see this on TV, he’s obviously one of the most famous people in the world, Donald Trump.
“I had a chance to be in Kremlin, meet (Vladimir) Putin in (the) Olympic Games in Russia.”
That happened around the time of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, in which Tarasenko played for the Russian squad.
“Now I meet Trump, that’s a couple of stories I can tell my kids,” he said. “It’s a great experience for us, learn something new.”
Tarasenko obviously can tell his children several stories about the aftermath of the Blues’ Stanley Cup season. Such as the parade down Market Street and rally at the Arch. The team dinner at the Missouri History Museum, where the Blues got their championship rings.
The banner-raising ceremony before the season opener against Washington. The ring presentation at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. And now the winger from Siberia has been in the Oval Office with the president of the United States along with the rest of the Blues’ squad.
“At the same time it’s done now,” Tarasenko said. “Memories will stay, pictures will stay, but you have to keep working and keep playing.”
Like the rest of his teammates, Tarasenko enjoyed all the Cup-related festivities. But a part of him is glad they’re over.
“I’m mean, yeah, those are great times,” Tarasenko said. “We had a great time, great stories from the summer. But new season starts now. I think if we keep living the past life and still celebrate, you can’t have success in the next year. So we need to be focused on this season. We (return) almost all our team, so we’ll try to do this again. That’s why we play.”
Record-wise, the Blues are off to a pretty good start at 3-1-2, which means out of a maximum 12 points in the standings they have eight. But they’ve done so without really being on top of their game.
“I don’t think we play our best hockey yet,” Tarasenko said. “It’s a pretty tough start to the year, a lot of stuff going on around. . . . We still have some wins, but I think we’re building our game slowly and just need to play our style of hockey like we play last year which gave us a championship.
“Maybe there’s not many like beautiful plays, or sometimes it looks simple. But it gives us success. So we need to trust the thing and play all together.”
There has been a lot of stuff going on around Tarasenko as well. First off, in an already short offseason because of the Blues’ Cup run, he missed a month or so of training as he recovered from knee surgery. That’s the second offseason in a row Tarasenko underwent surgery — it was shoulder operation after the 2017-18 campaign.
As for the knee surgery, he probably doesn’t have all his speed back at this point.
“It’s hard to say right now, just the start of the year,” Tarasenko said. “But the knee feels stable and everything feels good. There’s big credit to the guys that did my surgery — doctors, trainers here on the Blues. They did a perfect job to help me recovering. Always. I feel really good now.”
Additionally, Tarasenko missed a good chunk of the preseason because of illness.
“It’s been a pretty weird situation, you get some sickness,” Tarasenko said. “But I don’t want to talk about it much. I had some problems (that are fixed) now. Now I start feeling better in the games.”
It seems clear now that the illness set Tarasenko back as he entered the regular season.
“Lot of different reasons, but again not a thing to talk about right now,” he said. “Last year, it took so long. So you need to trust your work playing together. Talking about me, yes. But all our line if we play and support each other around the ice, we can play anyone in this league.”
Through six games, the overall numbers for the Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Tarasenko line look good, in large part because Schenn has scored goals in five consecutive games.
Schwartz has four assists but no goals. And Tarasenko, who has averaged a little more than two goals every five games over his NHL career, had four assists but no goals entering Monday’s contest against the New York Islanders. But he got on the scoreboard with a blistering shot from the right faceoff circle on a power play. His first goal of the season was No. 212 for him with the Blues.
Coach Craig Berube talked before that game about how he wanted Tarasenko to get to the net more, and get inside more in general. Tarasenko was much more engaged and involved against the Islanders, including five shots on goal and seven overall shot attempts — both season highs.
Tarasenko has been known to go on goal-scoring streaks, so maybe Monday’s score will get him going.
“It definitely gives you confidence,” Berube said. “But also, confidence just comes from doing things right, day in and day out and staying with it. That’s what he’s gotta continue to do. He’s gotta work to get to areas and holes on the ice, and he’s gotta get that shot off. That shot’s dangerous and it can beat goalies.”
He probably doesn’t get to the Kremlin or White House without it.