The St. Louis Blues are facing something of a goaltending conundrum heading into tonight’s game against Calgary. The plan was to start Jaroslav Halak (the nominal No. 1 that hasn’t played since Oct. 18), but adhering to that plan would require sitting the red-hot Brian Elliott (who’s posted a 4-0 record with a 1.59 GAA and .950 save percentage).
Clearly, not an easy decision to make. And according to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Blues head coach Davis Payne is in no rush to make it.
“Well, you know you’re dealing with a guy that’s feeling pretty good, so you want to maximize that,” Payne said. “But we also know that Jaro is an important part and we want to make sure that he has an opportunity to get his game going. We factor all of that stuff in and ultimately make a decision. We’ll let you know (today).”
We discussed Halak’s struggles to start the year in last week’s Wake-Up Call, but erroneously discounted Elliott as a viable alternative for the Blues’ starting gig. C’mon though, that’s not our fault. He looked awful with Ottawa and Colorado last year and signed a bargain-basement deal ($600k) just to compete for St. Louis’ backup job. That’s what St. Louis’ brass figured the deal was, anyway — when Elliott signed, Blues GM Doug Armstrong said the club was “looking for a goaltender to come in and compete with Ben Bishop for the second spot behind Halak.” At no time did Armstrong say the hopes were for Elliott to steal Halak’s starting gig before November. That would’ve been pretty far-fetched.
Yet here we are.
Speculation suggests Payne might ride Elliott until the bubble bursts, something the 26-year-old netminder is familiar with. Traditionally, he’s a streaky performer — with Ottawa in 2009-10, Elliott put together a career-best nine-game winning streak and a six-game winning streak as well.
Of course, he eventually relinquished the starting gig to Pascal Leclaire in the playoffs and flamed out miserably the following year.
“Obviously, you want to get in there as much as you can,” Elliott said Thursday. “It’s always fun and trying to be the guy to be in there and help the guys win … that’s my goal for sure. (But) it’s up to them. I just take it in stride and every time you get in, just try to win.”
Will Elliot get in tonight? The way things are going, we might not find out until the pregame warmup.