Earlier today, we posted about St. Louis’ up-in-the-air goaltending situation heading into tonight’s game versus Calgary.
Turns out it’s no longer up in the air.
Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that Brian Elliott will get his fourth consecutive start, putting Jaroslav Halak — he of the four-year, $15 million deal (signed just last season!) — on the bench once again.
Halak hasn’t appeared in a game for St. Louis since Oct. 18.
“We know Jaro is a guy that we’re going to continue to lean on, he’s a good goaltender, and he’s going to get that chance to go back in. But right now, we’re making decisions based on what gives our team success tonight,” Payne said.
When asked of the decision to go with Elliot again was a no-brainer, Payne responded: “You want to get into my mind and talk about no-brainers? No, it’s just a decision based on performance and how the team is playing and what we feel he can give us tonight.”
Payne also added he’s not worried about Halak becoming upset over the situation because “he’s a pro.”
Look, this all might be much ado about nothing. A similar situation arose in Pittsburgh last year when Marc-Andre Fleury got off to a horrible start and Brent Johnson ended up carrying the mail into November. (There was one point last season where Johnson was 5-0 with a 1.16 GAA while Fleury was 1-5 with a 3.35.)
The biggest difference there? Fleury was clearly established as Pittsburgh’s No.1 goalie. He’d been a 60 games-plus starter for three years and backstopped the Pens to a Stanley Cup.
Halak doesn’t have that resume.
You also get the feeling Payne doesn’t have as much faith in Halak as Dan Bylsma had in Fleury. Bylsma was faced with an almost identical situation last season — in mid-October, Johnson had rattled off three straight wins against the Islanders, Flyers and Senators. But rather than ride his backup for a fourth straight contest, Bylsma came back with Fleury and the Pens won in overtime, 4-3 over Nashville.
To be fair, the Penguins had a little more leeway than the Blues. Whereas the Pens were a consistent playoff team, the Blues haven’t been there in two years. That makes it a little tougher to sit back and watch your goalie cost you points while he figures out his game.