It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the two best players on the team are the ones that are doing a bulk of the work in winning games. The extent to which Ryan O’Reilly and Vlad Tarasenko are elevating the Blues is sort of extreme though. (warning: I’m gonna be throwing some charts at you, so get ready).
Let’s get into this, starting with O’Reilly. The impact that he has on the team and everyone that he plays with it undeniable and pretty easy to see even just casually watching the games. Looking deeper though, from his faceoff prowess to his penalty differential to his Selke-level defensive presence, he’s been a top-10 center in the league. All of this on top of his above point-per-game production offensively. His dominance is encompassed in Evolving-Hockey’s goals above replacement stat, which I think is pretty self-explanatory. He ranks fourth among all skaters with 16.9 GAR, behind only Mark Stone, Sidney Crosby, and Brayden Point. Pretty good.
Here’s a look at the other O'Reilly heat map... Shots for and against without O’Reilly on the ice.
These charts pretty clearly show that the Blues get high volumes of high-danger shots when O’Reilly is on the ice, and a lot less traffic around the net when he isn’t. The Blues are obviously more of an offensive threat when O’Reilly’s on the ice, and these charts demonstrate just how much he increases their scariness in the O zone.
Transitioning to Vladdy now, let’s take a look at his heat maps.
Tarasenko’s contribution to shot rates for the Blues are even more pronounced than O’Reilly’s. When he’s on the ice, the Blues scoring threat increases by a massive 20%!! Not only does Tarasenko generate a high quantity of shots, but they come from high-scoring areas like the front of the net (similar to O’Reilly) and from his favorite shooting place, that right circle. Keep in mind that these are 5v5 rates; if the powerplay was included we would see a big red area in the left circle too.
Some of the disparities in the heat maps for Tarasenko vs. O’Reilly can be attributed to the latter getting matched up against the other team’s biggest offensive threats, but most of those minutes still came with Tarasenko, so that point is essentially moot.
Here’s one last infographic that’s worth taking a long look at. It shows shot rates for and against for players without Tarasenko (red) and Tarasenko without players (blue).
This is wild. Literally every player on the team generates than Tarasenko does without them. Few players in the league can generate as much offense as Vladdy can while still keeping the shots against relatively low.
Two important takeaways about Tarasenko here:
So, in conclusion, Vladimir Tarasenko is a beast. More importantly, Vladimir Tarasenko with Ryan O’Reilly is a force to be reckoned with, a duo that can be compared with any other duo in the league reasonably. It’s an exciting time to be a Blues fan with both of these two under contract for a good price for the foreseeable future.
That is, unless we trade Vladdy for some help on the back end and a second round pick ;)
fight me on Twitter @brendanperson.
Charts from Micah Blake McCurdy’s hockeyviz.com.
"Good opinion haver"