halak elliott

Halak and Elliott continue to attack Hall of Famers’ records


Earlier this week, we spotlighted how the St. Louis goaltending duo of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak broke a 43-year-old franchise shutout record set by Hall of Famers Glen Hall and Jacques Plante.

Well, Halak and Elliott are at it again.

This time they’ve got former Chicago Blackhawks great Tony Esposito in the cross hairs — by combining for 15 shutouts, they’ve tied the modern-day record for shutouts in a season set by Espo in 1969-70.

More, from NHL.com:

Esposito got 56 goals of support in his 15 shutouts, an average of 3.73 goals per game — and that includes a scoreless tie against Boston on March 11, 1970. By the standards of his era, he wasn’t overworked, facing an average of 28.5 shots in the 15 shutouts. Esposito never faced more than 38 shots or fewer than 21. He faced more than 30 four times.

In contrast, the Blues have provided their goaltenders with just 36 goals in their 15 shutouts, an average of just 2.4 per game (including a 1-0 shootout loss at Los Angeles last week). But they’ve more than made up for any offensive shortcomings with their defensive play. Elliott has faced an average of just 23.1 shots in his nine shutouts, with a high of 37, and saw fewer than 20 in three of the nine. Halak has seen an average of 22 shots in his six shutouts and hasn’t faced more than 30 in any of them.

The shots-faced statistic will likely be the asterisk tagged onto Halak and Elliott’s accomplishments. While it doesn’t completely diminish what they’ve done, it doesn’t bolster anything — Halak’s made just 1060 saves this season (29th in the NHL) while Elliott’s made 860…13 more than Minnesota backup Josh Harding.

The reality is that a light workload, combined with the timeshare situation, has allowed both goalies to stay razor-sharp throughout the year. Which begs the question: Can Hitch keep using Elliott and Halak during the playoffs?

Bernie Miklasz of St. Louis Today thinks he can (and points to historical evidence as proof) but again, there’s more reality to consider. The last legitimate timeshare that won a Stanley Cup was in 1971-72, when Boston used Gerry Cheevers and Eddie Johnston almost equally throughout the postseason.

And that happened 40 years ago.

McDavid will center Hall and Slepyshev

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ST. LOUIS (AP) Edmonton Oilers rookie Connor McDavid said he didn’t have any trouble falling asleep on the eve of his professional debut.

But when he woke up on Thursday he said it finally hit him.

“In the days leading up I wasn’t really thinking about it too much,” McDavid said. “Kind of when I woke up this morning, I guess that’s kind of when it hit me that I’ll be playing in my first NHL game. I think that’s when I first realized.”

When the Oilers play at the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, all eyes will be on the 18-year-old McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and the most hyped player to enter the NHL since Sidney Crosby of the Penguins made his debut a decade ago.

Speaking in front of a crowd of reporters on Thursday following his team’s morning skate, the soft-spoken rookie admitted to having some butterflies but said he felt pretty good and was excited to get going.

“It’s just special,” McDavid said of his NHL debut. “I’m living out my dream, so there’s nothing better than that. I’m just really looking forward to tonight.”

McDavid will be centering the Oilers’ second line against the Blues with Taylor Hall on the left wing and Anton Slepyshev on the right. Hall was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, while Slepyshev will also be making his NHL debut on Thursday night.

“We all see what he can do in practice and the games,” Hall said of McDavid. “It’s important to remember he’s 18. I’m 23 and I still have bad games. Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world and still has bad games. There’s going to be some trials and some errors, but I think that he’s in a position to succeed and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow.”

Oilers coach Todd McLellan, hired in May after spending seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks, has already gotten accustomed to receiving questions about McDavid.

The first few questions McLellan was asked on Thursday were about the NHL’s most popular newcomer.

“What I’ve found with him is he’s working really hard to just be himself and fit in,” the coach said. “He doesn’t want to be special, he doesn’t want to be treated any differently but he obviously is. He’s trying to adapt to that and he’s doing a very good job of it personally and collectively I think our team has done a good job around him.”

McLellan said there are three levels of pressure surrounding him.

The first is McDavid’s individual expectations, which he is sure are extremely high. The second comes from the rookie’s teammates, coaching staff, organization and city of Edmonton.

“But where it really changes is the national, international and world-wide eyes being on him,” McLellan said. “How does that compare to some of the other players I’ve been around? I haven’t been around an 18-year-old who has had to deal with that. It’s new to all of us.

“I did spend some time talking to Sid (Sidney Crosby) about his experience and even since then the world’s really changed as far as media and social media and that type of stuff. This is a new adventure for everybody involved. I know Connor has the tools to handle the pressure and we’ll do everything we can to help him.”

Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope


While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

So, where is Krejci’s game now?

Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”