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.

Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
Leave a comment

Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
Leave a comment

You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

1 Comment

The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
Leave a comment

One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.