ST. LOUIS -- As the St. Louis Blues are one win away from the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, there's speculation about who will win the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP.
One of the names in consideration is winger Vladimir Tarasenko, who has 11 goals in 24 games. But defenseman Colton Parayko offered another interesting candidate: Yana Tarasenko, who gave birth to their son on Friday.
"She's the real MVP," he said, smiling. "We're on the road, and it happens on the day we get back. I think we landed and [Tarasenko] went straight to the [hospital]."
The Blues defeated the Boston Bruins in Game 5 on Thursday night and flew back to St. Louis. On Friday, Yana Tarasenko posted a photo of her husband holding their newborn with the caption "our little boy ... welcome to the world."
Tarasenko didn't participate in practice on Saturday for what was called a "maintenance day."
In their locker room on Saturday, the Blues expressed their joy about the new addition to the Tarasenko family -- they have two other boys, Mark and Sasha -- while praising the clutch timing of the birth.
"Yana did a good job of holding on, making sure Vladimir was there. We're so happy for him. Another boy for them. So happy for the Tarasenkos and their family, and everyone's healthy. It's good to see that," winger Pat Maroon said. "Yana's done a good job. Good communication I guess. It's been good."
Many of the Blues players are fathers, and acknowledged the difficulty in having the birth of a child looming while trying to focus on a potential championship run.
"Yeah, he's gotta be exhausted. I can't imagine, for him, what it's like," O'Reilly said. "But it's amazing. It's one of the greatest things in the world, to be a parent, and especially at this time going through all that, the emotions he must have are amazing. Everyone here is so happy for him."
His coach, Craig Berube, was also impressed with his Russian star's focus.
"Yeah, he's done a great job of it. It's not easy, and he's not the only player who's gone through it. It's hard. Obviously, family is important and first, and you gotta make sure that's all in check. But Vladi's been great. He's been doing a great job of [focusing], and when the game time comes, he's played hard and played well," said Berube of Tarasenko, who also has five assists to go with his 11 goals, including two game-winning goals as well as a playoffs-high 85 shots.
Yana Tarasenko talked about the work/life balance with Vladimir in a piece with St. Louis Magazine last September.
"Vladi is very attentive while at home. During the travel season, we stay in touch via FaceTime. Sasha knows that when Daddy wears a suit, it means he might be absent for several days, and he's OK with that. They both understand that we are a sports family. They're proud of it and try to be just like Dad," she said.
In the next two games, "Dad" will find out if he's a Stanley Cup champion. Then comes the real challenge: Raising three children.
"I had three at once," said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo, who welcomed triplets last summer. "So they'll be all right. They'll find a way to balance it."