Jaroslav Halak is turning Brian Elliott into an All-Star backup

Here’s one for the department of “good problems to have”: the St. Louis Blues seem destined to have an All-Star goalie watching from the bench.

Brian Elliott’s been a great find for the Blues and they rewarded him with what is a very generous contract for a No. 2 goalie. It’s likely Elliott didn’t think he’d be a flat-out backup, but that seems to be the situation as Jaroslav Halak is establishing a stranglehold on the top spot. That point seems much clearer after Halak shut out the Los Angeles Kings 1-0 tonight.

Paycheck politics

In most cases when a team clearly force-feeds starts to a No. 1 goalie despite his understudy’s brilliance, I chalk it up to “paycheck politics.”

There have certainly been times this season when the Blues seemed a little too eager to put Halak in the lineup when Elliott was out-playing him, but Ken Hitchcock’s system is making Halak look like an all-world goalie again.

Halak takes advantage of St. Louis system

Three of his five shutouts in 2011-12 have come in the last five games, but it’s not like he worked particularly hard to get them. He only needed to make 22 stops against the Kings tonight, 15 against the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 19 and 22 against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 16. (He also needed a mere 19 saves to blank the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 10.)

Halak must feel a bit like Martin Brodeur did in the New Jersey Devils’ best trapping days – or more appropriately like Ed Belfour in similar times for the Dallas Stars with Hitchcock behind the bench – but Elliott hasn’t done himself many favors lately.

Elliott slows down

Elliott hasn’t been a sieve by any means, but he’s just 1-2-2 in his last five games (although his one win was a shutout). It’s true that he hasn’t allowed more than three goals in any of those contests, but with Halak on fire again, it looks like Elliott will be watching most nights.


It would all seem unfair-to-downright-tragic if it weren’t for the fact that Elliott received his well-deserved contract extension. Still, it’s tough to deny that the Blues will go as far as Halak takes them in the playoffs, instead.

Don’t believe the Blues when they say that this is just how they drew it up, though.

Dropping like flies: Johnson, Killorn hurt in Bolts’ exhibition

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game One
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You probably know the drill: injury updates are murky in the NHL basically from the moment a puck drops.

We’ll learn more once the 2015-16 season begins, but at the moment, Saturday might have served as a costly night for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn went down with injuries stemming from a 3-2 pre-season win against the Florida Panthers.

“Guys were dropping like flies,” Steven Stamkos told the Tamba Bay Times.

These could be minor situations – just about any ailment will sideline a key asset this time of year – yet one cannot help but wonder if the Lightning might limp into this campaign.

Nikita Kucherov is dealing with his own issues, so that means at least minor issues for one half of the Bolts’ top six forwards.

It’s believed that more will be known about these banged-up Bolts sometime on Sunday.

Raffi Torres gets match penalty for being Raffi Torres

Raffi Torres

With knee issues still limiting him, Raffi Torres isn’t as mobile as he once was. Apparently he still moves well enough to leave the usual path of destruction.

It’s the pre-season, so it’s unclear if we’ll get a good look at the check, but Torres received a match penalty for his hit on Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg.

Most accounts were pretty critical of the San Jose Sharks’ chief troublemaker:

It’s too early to tell if Silfverberg is injured. If he is, that’s a significant loss for the Ducks, as he really showed signs of fulfilling his promise (especially during the 2015 playoffs).

As far as Torres goes, he’s hoping to play in the Sharks’ season-opener. Wherever he ends up, he’ll certainly make plenty of enemies on the ice.

Whether it was because of that hit or just the general distaste shared by those sides, it sounds like tonight’s Sharks – Ducks exhibition is getting ugly, in general:

This post will be updated if video of the hit becomes available, and also if we get a better idea of Silfverberg’s condition.

Update: Bullet dodged?