Blues’ All-Stars are all smiles at All-Star Weekend

Goaltender Brian Elliott had nine saves Sunday.

Gene J. Puskar/AP

Three of the Blues’ brightest young stars took full advantage of an exciting weekend on hockey’s biggest stage.

First-time All-Stars Vladimir Tarasenko and Kevin Shattenkirk had plenty to smile about as two of the most talked-about players at their positions in the league this season. Tarasenko has established himself as one of the league’s elite scorers with several highlight-reel goals, and Shattenkirk’s improved play has him in contention for the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman.

Goaltender Brian Elliott didn’t know he’d be joining his teammates in Columbus until Thursday night, when a third injured goaltender opened up a spot for the 29-year-old. He quickly cut short his vacation in the Turks and Caicos Islands to play in his second All-Star Game.

All three left their marks in Sunday’s game, even though Tarasenko often didn’t look all that interested in scoring, particularly in the final minute. The 23-year-old forward, who Blues coach Ken Hitchcock would like to see shoot even more, finished tied for a game high with four assists.

His best opportunity to score may have been in the third period, when Elliott made one of his nine saves to deny his Blues teammate. Shattenkirk didn’t miss on his only real chance to score, beating Roberto Luongo glove side from close range to tie the game at three.

But those stats and the 17-12 final score took a backseat to simply soaking in the experience of the weekend, especially for Shattenkirk and Tarasenko. The two close friends found plenty of entertainment in interviews as well as on the ice and will surely benefit from the chance to interact with some of their most talented peers.

Tarasenko may be shy with the media, but it became even more evident in Columbus that he’s not afraid of the camera or attention. All-Star games could easily become regular occurrences for the Russian, who already has career highs with 24 goals and 23 assists through 46 games.

Shattenkirk looked as relaxed as ever throughout the weekend, which included a live interview during the first intermission of Sunday’s game. He joked with NBC Sports Network’s Pierre McGuire about trying to track down the puck he used to score since Luongo quickly threw it up into the crowd.

All three Blues participated in the All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday night, when Elliott got more attention for his photography than his goaltending. Even though they were on separate teams, Elliott partnered with Tarasenko for one of the night’s most memorable moments.

The two Blues set the bar for creativity high as Tarasenko skated in on the Breakaway Challenge and pretended to set up for a monster slap shot. Meanwhile, Elliott turned around and grabbed his iPhone from behind the net to take a selfie with Tarasenko almost perfectly framed in the background just before he slid the puck into the goal and skated over for a congratulatory hug.

Their antics continued in the next round, when Elliott put on a blindfold and Tarasenko stopped just inside the blue line to pass the puck along the ice and through the goaltender’s legs. He finally got to make a "save" on the third and final round, when Tarasenko fired a wrist shot hard enough to shatter the plastic target in Elliott’s outstretched glove.

Tarasenko and Shattenkirk showed off some dizzying skating ability for the two fastest teams in the Skills Challenge Relay, but fun was the top priority as both seemed to be smiling every time they showed up on camera. Shortly after his now-famous selfie, Elliott appeared in another one with two enthusiastic young fans, and he gave an exaggerated fist pump when he denied Tarasenko in the shootout.

Hitchcock said earlier this month the experience would be valuable for Tarasenko and Shattenkirk, two of the most critical pieces for a St. Louis playoff run. Things will get serious again Thursday at Scottrade Center with a game against Central Division-leading Nashville, three points ahead of the second-place Blues.

You can follow Luke Thompson on Twitter at @FS_LukeT or email him at lukegthompson87@gmail.com.