By Patrick Kelly
While the St. Louis Blues knew they would have to work through most of the season without Vladimir Tarasenko, they didn’t expect to be battered even more. Along with Tarasenko, the Blues have also been without Tyler Bozak since he was hit by Mark Stone, adding to a list that also includes Jaden Schwartz and Colton Parayko.
Parayko particularly is in a situation that is disheartening to see. He hasn’t played to his full potential this year and it seems at times that perhaps a nagging injury could be bothering him. This issue was discussed on The Cam Janssen Show Wednesday when Andy Strickland pointed out “if the Blues want to make a deep playoff run they need Parayko to be at his best.” When the Blues lost Alex Pietrangelo, it meant it was now the Parayko show and it was his time to step up. But if Parayko isn’t able to play at 100 percent, it makes many wonder if the Blues can work past it.
What the Blues have to do depends on the injury. If it is something that needs surgery then there is nothing that can be done Parayko will more than likely miss a big chunk of time. On the other hand, if it’s something that can be worked out by trainers and fixed enough through the season, the question still would be who can step up.
Thankfully, despite being without Parayko, the Blues have two defensemen who are accustomed to playing big-time minutes deep into games. Torey Krug led the Boston Bruins defense in ice time in several of the Final games in 2019, skating equally as much or more than the Blues top guys on the blue line. Justin Faulk is also someone who has not only seen large swaths of minutes in Carolina, but also his play this year is going nowhere but up. If Parayko is able to play, but not to his full potential there, should be no reason that Faulk couldn’t take a big swatch of his responsibilities and ice time.
Faulk and Krug grabbing a bigger role also means that the lower guys will have to step into a role that also could be possible. With Marco Scandella coming back Thursday night, the Blues get a big bump if he can stay in the lineup long term with how solid he has played. Another player coming into his own is Niko Mikkola, who has looked impressive early and has been given more responsibilities, including the important job of killing penalties.
Because of the shortened, condensed season, a lot of teams are dealing with the injury bug and to a degree it was expected. The Blues are making progress with Tarasenko and if the stars can align in a few months, the Blues are definitely looking to have the depth to make a deep run for another Stanley Cup.