Of all the teams that would lose their starting goalie, the St. Louis Blues seemed the most well-equipped to roll with the punches (with the possible exception of the Vancouver Canucks’ voluntary swap, as we’ll see tonight). Brian Elliott justified such a notion in Game 2 on Saturday, continuing Jaroslav Halak’s shutout bid once the Blues’ more well-compensated netminder went down with a mysterious lower-body injury. The Associated Press reports that Elliott will get the start as the series shifts to San Jose, too, although one can only speculate if that’s matter of performance or Halak’s ill health.
Considering the amazing numbers Elliott put together in his opportunities, Halak’s injury might push Ken Hitchcock & Co. to the best decision to give the team a chance to go deep. While it’s easy to see why Halak’s style seemingly gives him a higher ceiling, Elliott’s positioning and size might actually be a better fit for the Blues’ suffocating system.
That’s especially true against the volume-shooting Sharks, who might just end up having a tougher time against Elliott.
(Honestly, it’s hard to say with certainty, though. Both netminders put up great numbers and each earned two victories against San Jose this season. Feel free to weigh the pros and cons of the two in the comments, much like you surely did in this poll.)
H/T to Rotoworld.
The Philadelphia Flyers’ playoff goaltending outlook seems like it’s on an unending seesaw this season. First, it seemed like Ilya Bryzgalov would be a huge free agent bust. Things started to turn around and then his work skyrocketed in March, earning him the first star of the month. Just as life was looking good, Breezy got an injury that sure didn’t sound like something you’d come back from in little time.
Maybe he shouldn’t have.
Always-sunny Philly fans serenaded Bryzgalov & Co. as they left the ice after a tough first period as the New York Rangers opened up a 4-0 lead. Bryzgalov allowed a Ryan McDonagh goal at the 6:25 mark of the first period, Brian Boyle’s 10th of the season about five minutes later and then two power-play goals 36 seconds apart late in the first.
Peter Laviolette faces an interesting decision in the first intermission. He could either sit Bryzgalov and give him the chance to gather his bearings in one of Philly’s other final games or insert a little stubbornness into the scenario by trying to let him fight through it.
What would you do with the notably … different goalie if you were him? It’s also hard to avoid asking one other question: will Philly face another netminder conundrum in the playoffs?
On Monday night, Ken Hitchcock admitted that the St. Louis Blues’ starting job is fair game. Deep down, the Blues brass might really want big-money goalie Jaroslav Halak to take it, but All-Star backup Brian Elliott is making it incredibly difficult to count him out with three straight shutouts.
The latest one happened tonight as Elliott stopped all 24 Nashville Predators shots as the Blues won 3-0, giving them an eight point lead over the Detroit Red Wings and a nine-point margin in front of Nashville for the Central Division title. (Yup, that’s about as close to “clinching” it as you can get.)
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Amusingly enough, Elliott’s first shutout didn’t result in a win as his shutout wasn’t as good as Jonathan Quick’s in a shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings on March 22. Even so, Elliott turned aside all 81 of the shots he’s seen in the last three games with a 186 minute and 33 second streak. That obviously makes it really, really hard for Hitchcock to deny him the playoff throne.
Here’s an interesting twist, though: Lou Korac reports that Halak will get the nod on Thursday.
It’s not a crazy choice because it gives Elliott a breather, doesn’t make things too hard on Halak and acknowledges the Blues comfortable playoff positioning, but it certainly opens the door for more “maybe too much of a good thing” material. For example: what happens if Halak gets a shutout of his own?
I know what you’re saying: poor Ken Hitchcock.
In all seriousness, though, who would you go with: Elliott or Halak? Or would you dare to continue the competition even as the playoffs begin?
Despite Brian Elliott’s unlikely All-Star bid, paycheck politics and a hot run under Ken Hitchcock implied that the St. Louis Blues’ starting job would go to Jaroslav Halak. Yet after back-to-back shutouts, Elliott pushed that positive goalie “controversy” to the forefront again, but Hitchcock told Jeremy Rutherford that he’s in no rush to name a No. 1.
“I don’t know if it’s a good problem to have, but it’s one that I’m putting off until the last possible moment,” Hitchcock said. “To me, I’m going to wait until the playoffs start before I make that determination. I just feel like I owe it to both guys to continue to play both guys.”
“I expected a month ago that this thing would kind of air itself out and we’d figure out something. But it has not. I wouldn’t say it’s more complicated, it’s a good complication. But they’re making it hard on me because both guys are playing so good.”
Let there be no doubt about that.
Elliott is atop the NHL in GAA with 1.52 and is also leading everyone in stats nerds-approved save percentage with a stunning .941 mark. Halak’s overall numbers aren’t as out-of-this-world, but he’s easily been in stride with Elliott since Hitch came along after struggling before the coaching change.
Deep down, it seems like most NHL teams generally prefer to start their big money guys. It makes the GM feel all warm and fuzzy (and smart) while that guy tends to come in with bigger credentials – whether it be a higher draft pedigree, a more impressive resume or both.
Still, Elliott’s done just about anything a person can do to earn a starting job this season, so which guy would you go with if you were Hitchcock? Is he making the right move by waiting to name a No.1 netminder? Do tell.
When word surfaced that Craig Anderson was nearing a return, I felt a little silly (but still had to ask) if the Ottawa Senators could have a goalie controversy in the making. That question feels less ridiculous after tonight, however, as Anderson was pulled about five minutes into his first game back after allowing two goals on four shots.
It’s fair to say that it’s probably “just one of those games,” though. Erik Cole completed his natural hat trick less than a minute later, as Ben Bishop hasn’t fared much better so far (two goals allowed on eight shots in a little more than nine minutes of game time).
Update: in fact, Senators coach Paul MacLean opted to go back with Anderson after the first period ended. He allowed on more goal throughout the game (a Lars Eller mark in the final frame) as the Montreal Canadiens won 5-1, suddenly placing the Senators’ playoff hopes in doubt.
Still, the Senators are dealing with heightened expectations right now. The team might be taken more seriously considering their Erik Karlsson/Jason Spezza-fueled attack, but getting decent goaltending is key.
There could be some debate about which netminder would be best to get that done, then.