Bernie Bits: Tarasenko the Tiger, Blues Hogging the Puck, DeJong Top 10, Cards Best Fit For Harper

Bernie Bits…

For Monday, Feb. 11, 2019…

Let’s begin with a bunch of snap shots as a mini-tribute to Vladimir Tarasenko and your St. Louis Blues:

1. Over his last 15 games, Tarasenko has 11 goals, seven assists (18 points) and is a plus 11. That includes his hat trick — and winning goal in overtime — during the Blues’ 5-4 win Sunday at Nashville. The man has been a tiger on ice.

2. Among NHL forwards with at least 200 minutes of even-strength ice time since Jan, 7, Tarasenko ranks fourth in “Goals-For Percentage” at 70.8%. That means the Blues have scored just under 71 percent of all even-strength goals put in the net while Tarasenko is on the ice.

3. I haven’t heard much lately from the “Trade Tarasenko” crowd. Wonder why?

4. This is a fine time for a reminder: Since the start of the 2014-2015 season, only one NHL player has more goals (including those scored on the power play) than Tarasenko. That would be Alex Ovechkin.

Here’s a look…

Total goals scored, last five seasons: Ovechkin 222, Tarasenko 171, John Tavares 169, Patrick Kane 167, Nikita Kucherov 162, Sidney Crosby 160.

Even-strength goals: Ovechkin 134, Tarasenko 128, Kane 124, Tavares 121, Kucherov 116, Jeff Skinner 114.

5. In going 17-8-1 the Blues have the NHL’s fifth-best points percentage (.673)  since Dec. 11… and that’s good for No. 3 in the Western Conference.

6. The Blues’ road record (10-3-1) since Dec. 11 translates into a .750 points percentage that ranks tied for second in the NHL and No. 1 in the West over that time.

7. Under interim coach Craig Berube the Blues are 20-13-2; that points percentage (.600) ranks 12th in the NHL and 5th in the West over that time. Before Berube replaced Mike Yeo, the Blues were 29th in the 31-team league and 13th in conference with a points percentage of .447.

8. Led by Jordan Binnington the Blues’ goaltending has been fantastic for a while now. But as Berube told us on Monday’s “Bernie Show,” the team is playing very well in front of Binnington and Jake Allen. And that’s a big help to both goalies. And Berube is right. The Blues’ possession metrics over the last two months are off the charts.

These guys are hogs with the puck…

I went over most of this last week, so I’ll update — but limit the numbers used here. But consider these even-strength metrics since Dec. 11:

— The Blues have controlled 55.64 percent of the shots. That’s No. 1 in the NHL.

— The Blues have controlled 55 percent of the scoring chances, No. 1 in the NHL.

— The Blues have converted 61.25 percent of their scoring chances into goals; that’s No. 2 overall and No. 1 in the West.

— The Blues have delivered 61.25 percent of the high-danger scoring chances (in comparison to opponents) which ranks No. 1 in the league.

9. Robert Thomas … what a talent … and maturing every day. As I type this Thomas is 19 years and 224 days old. And during the team’s 17-8-1 stretch that’s put lifted them into the first wild-card playoff spot, Thomas has been one of the best forwards on the team. Among Blues forwards with at least 100 minutes of five-on-five ice time, young Mr. Thomas ranks No. 1 in shots-for-percentage at 61.62% … meaning that when he’s on the ice, five-on-five, the Blues have controlled 61.62 percent of the shots … and Thomas is No. 3 among forwards in scoring-chances-for percentage at 58.75% … and No. 3 in high-danger-chances-for percentage at 67.2%. Amazing.

10. The Blues, obviously, have made up a huge deficit in going from being last in the Western Conference with 34 points back on Dec. 31 — compared to where they are now: 59 points, seventh in the West.

I took the time to document how many points the Blues have gained on each Western Conference team from New Year’s Day through Sunday, Feb. 10:

Anaheim, +19
Colorado, +16
Edmonton, +11
Vancouver, +10
Las Vegas, +9
Los Angeles, +9
Arizona, +8
Dallas, +8
Chicago, +6
Minnesota, +5
Winnipeg, +4,
Calgary, +3
Nashville, +2
San Jose, +1

READING TIME FIVE MINUTES

Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong was ranked eighth on MLB Network’s annual “Top 10 Shortstops Right Now!” listing. Rated ahead of DeJong were Francisco Lindor, Javier Báez, Trevor Story, Manny Machado, Andrelton Simmons, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. Rounding the Top 10 after DeJong were Jean Segura and Didi Gregorius. DeJong, who had his 2018 season interrupted by injury (fractured hand), has averaged 22 homers and slugged .482 with an .800 OPS in his first two big-league seasons for St. Louis. And last season he stood among the best shortstops in the majors, ranking third overall with 14 Defensive Runs Saved.

Speaking of DeJong, Harold Reynolds of the MLB Network said, “How he goes, so will the Cardinals. This guy is really becoming the face of that team. The ability to perform in the middle the way he has, defensively and offensively. The injury just crushed him. You get hit by a pitch in the hand, it just affects everything you do, even defensively, thinking out on the field. But he did not come back swinging the bat like he’s capable of. Now he’s a full offseason to get healthy, we’ll see how he starts the season off and through Spring Training. But he’s an elite player, no doubt.”

Several other Cardinals have made MLB Network’s Top 10 at their respective positions: Paul Goldschmidt (No. 1 at first base), catcher Yadier Molina (sixth at catcher), Matt Carpenter (sixth at third base), Marcell Ozuna (seventh in left field), and Harrison Bader ninth in center field…

Speaking of Carpenter, old friend Jeff Gordon (Post-Dispatch) offered this observation online at STLtoday: “He had a bad shoulder, now he is taking lots of work at third base to be acceptable there defensively.” Many undoubtedly would agree with Jeff’s opinion. But Carpenter ranked No. 7 among all MLB third baseman last season with six Defensive Runs Saved.

Happy Birthday: Cardinals bullpen coach Bryan Eversgerd is 50. Earlier in his baseball life Eversgerd, the Carlyle IL native, worked in relief for the Cardinals (48 total appearances) in 1994 and 1998. Great guy, and good at his job… Retired Blues defenseman Bryce Salvador is 43. He had a rewarding 13-season career in the NHL, playing the first seven seasons for the Blues (beginning in 2000-2001) and the remainder of his career for New Jersey. Salvador was a Blue for 447 regular-season games and 36 postseason contests. Only four defensemen have logged more games than Salvador while wearing The Note: Barret Jackman, Alex Pietrangelo, Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger … former St. Louis Rams (2006-2009) defensive lineman Victor Adeynaju is 36… St. Louis Ben McLemore (NBA Sacramento Kings) is 26… Sheryl Crow is 57.

This Day in Sports: In 1986, the Chicago Bears’ single “Superbowl Shuffle” was certified gold by the RIAA … in 1990, James “Buster” Douglas shocked the boxing world with a 10th-round knockout of heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in Tokyo, Japan.

Born On This Day: The late actor Burt Reynolds, in 1936. After playing running back at Florida State Reynolds had an immensely successful career as an actor in TV and films; sports fans especially appreciated his work in “Semi-Tough” and “The Longest Yard.” Reynolds, who lived in Jupiter FL, died there last Sept. 6 at age 82.

Trending Up: Missouri State basketball. When Jarred Dixon struck oil on his half-court shot at the buzzer on Sunday, Missouri State had a 66-65 home win over Illinois State. (The Redbirds made Dixon’s hero shot possible with a turnover on an inbounds play.) While only 13-12 overall and 7-5 in the Missouri Valley Conference, Missouri State has won five of its last six conference games under first-year coach Dana Ford.

Trending Down: Missouri basketball and Saint Louis U. basketball. After fading in Saturday’s 68-59 loss to Texas A&M at Mizzou Arena — the Tigers were outscored 47-29 in the second half –Mizzou has lost eight of its last 10, including four of five at home. The Tigers are 2-8 in the SEC and KenPom projects a final conference record of 5-13 … After getting blown out (91-61) at St. Joseph’s, SLU has dropped five of its last six to tumble to 6-5 in the Atlantic 10. It’s easy to see why the Billikens have spiraled to No. 142 overall in the KenPom rankings; they rank 350th among 353 teams nationally in free-throw percentage, 328th in effective field goal percentage, 330th in three-point shooting percentage, and 263rd in two-point shooting.

Checking in on the NL Central competition: The Pittsburgh Pirates have quietly stayed busy this offseason, making multiple low-key moves on make-good contracts that could pan out. The list of of economical purchases includes outfielders Melky Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall and J.B. Shuck; first baseman/corner outfielder Patrick Kivlehan; starting pitchers Tom Koehler and Francisco Liriano; relievers Tyler Lyons, Brandon Maurer and Vicente Campos; infielder-outfielder Nick Franklin, catcher Steve Baron … in addition, the Pirates brought back infielder Jung Ho Kang only eight days after buying him out of his 2019 option year. Kang averaged 18 homers with 60 RBIs and an .838 OPS over 2015-2016 before missing all of 2017 and all but three games last season, after a DUI arrest in his native South Korea prevented him from obtaining a U.S. visa … one other Pirates note: in case you missed it, Cardinals’ 2006 World Series MVP David Eckstein has joined Pittsburgh’s front office as a special assistant in baseball operations.

Just for kicks, the FiveThirtyEight site at ESPN ran a bunch of simulations to determine the best fit for free agent right fielder Bryce Harper. The gang at 538 received assistance from oOut of the Park Baseball (OOTP), a respected and popular strategic simulation game. The result: the Cardinals rate among the best fits for Harper — with the relationship going so well, Harper would sign a contract extension and be a Cardinal for 12 seasons. Over the dozen years the Cardinals would make the postseason nine times, win two NL pennants and receive 53.4 total WAR from Harper. That WAR figure would put Harper fifth on the franchise’s all-time list behind (in order) Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Albert Pujols and Ozzie Smith. And according to the OOTP projections Harper would win the league MVP award in 2023.

Hey, 538, pass this along to Cards chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie