Usually when a team isn’t sure who their starting goaltender will be in the playoffs, it’s because neither one has proven himself. In the case of the St. Louis Blues, the problem is that they arguably have the top two goaltenders in the league this season. Jaroslav Halak has already had some playoff success and he’s been nearly unbeatable since the start of November. Then of course there’s Brian Elliott, who posted his second consecutive shutout in a 4-0 victory over Phoenix on Sunday.
Although Elliott only had to stop 20 shots this time, he is tied for the league lead with eight shutouts despite the handicap of having only played in 35 games. Of those who qualify, he is the NHL’s clear leader in GAA and save percentage.
The St. Louis Blues superb defense and one-two punch in goal have led to 14 shutouts this season, which breaks the previous franchise record of 13 set by Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall in 1968-69.
Not that the Blues needed much offense on Sunday, but Alex Pietrangelo, David Backes, Patrik Berglund, and Ryan Reaves each scored a goal. Kevin Shattenkirk recorded three assists and has now surpassed the 40-point milestone in each of his first two NHL campaigns.
St. Louis had lost four of their previous five contests, so this win is certainly timely. They had allowed the Vancouver Canucks to close the gap in the battle for the first seed in the Western Conference, but this victory gives them a four-point lead in that race.
The Blues are very likely to win their division, but it’s still not official. They get a chance to come one step closer to locking up the Central Division in their game against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, this loss was a serious blow to the Phoenix Coyotes. Although they still finished the night in seventh place and have a one-point lead over Los Angeles, San Jose, and Colorado, they have just five games remaining. By contrast, the Kings and Sharks both have seven contests left on their schedules. Phoenix will be under a lot of pressure to beat San Jose on Thursday.
Nolan Patrick will miss the upcoming World Juniors due to an injury that has kept him out of game action since mid-October.
Hockey Canada made the announcement Monday evening.
Patrick is a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. He was recently named to Canada’s selection camp, however the 18-year-old forward has only played in six games with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings this season.
He has four goals and nine points, his season reduced because of this upper-body injury. Per Hockey Canada, Patrick hasn’t been medically cleared to attend the camp, so therefor he will miss the entire tournament.
Patrick has already missed the annual series last month between Canada and Russia. He also underwent sports hernia surgery in July.
Related: Pre-game reading: Some advice for Nolan Patrick
Roberto Luongo was on his game in the first period versus the Boston Bruins on Monday.
The Florida Panthers goalie was called upon to make 14 saves in the opening 20 minutes, and none better than this glove stop on Ryan Spooner.
Spooner appeared to have the wide open net on a cross-ice pass, but Luongo threw up the glove in spectacular fashion to deny the Bruins forward less than three minutes into the game.
The Philadelphia Flyers have had their share of good news lately. They’ve won five in a row and goalie Steve Mason has been solid in that span, being named on Monday the NHL’s first star for the week.
But it hasn’t all been positive.
Forward Matt Read is out of the lineup for at least four weeks with an upper-body injury, the Flyers announced Monday. The injury occurred during Sunday’s game against the Nashville Predators.
It’s been reported the injury is an oblique muscle pull.
With Read out, the Flyers have recalled Taylor Leier from the American Hockey League.
Leier has been very productive in the minors. In 22 games this season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, he has six goals and 20 points.
The topic of a possible Wild Card play-in game being added to the NHL’s playoff format isn’t new.
General managers around the league have talked about it before. The idea recently seemed to gain traction with at least the small majority, too.
Hockey insider Bob McKenzie once polled all 30 GMs to get a sense of how many would be in favor of such a thing — and 16 of those GMs were. You can count Ken Holland with the Detroit Red Wings as someone who would like to see a Wild Card play-in game.
Holland is also a baseball fan and likes the way MLB has created must-watch play-in games. In baseball, there are three division winners in each league. Those three teams qualify for the division round of the postseason. Two wild-card teams in each league square off in a one-game play-in to decide the fourth divisional qualifier on each side.
“I’m all for an extra team in each conference qualifying for the playoffs and having a wild- card play-in game,” said Holland. “It would add excitement down the stretch for many more teams fighting for the additional wild-card spot and two extra teams would be involved in the playoffs. Those play-in games would be dramatic.”
Of course, the interesting thing about that is the Red Wings have a streak of 25 consecutive playoff appearances on the line.
But their best days — when Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg led them to a Stanley Cup in 2008 and the final the following year — are long behind them. The organization has undergone substantial change with Zetterberg getting older, the loss of Datsyuk to the KHL and Mike Babcock joining the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Red Wings could be in real danger of missing the post-season under its current format in 2017.
Detroit is two points out of the second Wild Card spot in the East, with New Jersey and Boston still ahead of them, although not currently in a playoff spot.