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.
After establishing himself in the Swedish league, Anton Lindholm will head to North America.
The Colorado Avalanche announced that they have signed the 21-year-old defenseman to a three-year, entry-level contract. They selected Lindholm in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
More of a defensive defenseman, Lindholm only registered four assists in 30 Swedish league games with Skelleftea AIK in 2015-16, but he also had a team-high 85 hits despite missing a chunk of the season due to injury. During the playoffs he helped his team reach the SHL Finals by leading them in both hits and blocked shots.
That was his second full campaign with Skelleftea AIK. The next step for Lindholm will likely be for him to continue his development in the AHL.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Bob McKenzie shares his memories of Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie, who apparently was a big hockey fan. (TSN)
Don Cherry discusses John Brophy’s toughness after the former Leafs coach recently passed away. (Sportsnet)
A look at Vincent Lecavalier‘s career. (Greatest Hockey Legends)
The perils of flip-flopping goalies in the playoffs … although it worked out for the Penguins at least last night. (The Hockey News)
Speaking of which, will the Blues get burned for switching back to Brian Elliott in Game 6 tonight? Here’s a preview:
Sidney Crosby has a chance to join a very rare club of clutch goal-scorers if he can win it for Pittsburgh in Game 7:
Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.
(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)
Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:
Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”
“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”
Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.
Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.
The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.
On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.
It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.
Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.
Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.
Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.
Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.
Read more about Game 6 here.