NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Chicago Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues at the United Center at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.
So far this season Chicago and St. Louis have been two of the league’s top teams and it’s not hard to see why. Both squads feature a deep offense, strong defense, and arguably an underrated starting goaltender.
Brian Elliott and Corey Crawford each have a GAA under 2.00, but their teams will be tested tonight as those two netminders are injured.
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Elliott is week-to-week with a lower-body injury, so 24-year-old Jake Allen has been asked to pick up the slack. He’s got promise and has been solid this season, but he has just 26 NHL games under his belt. He’s also never played Chicago, so facing off against the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa will be a new experience for him.
The Blues have signed future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur to a one-year deal, but the expectation is that he’ll get his first start on Thursday or Saturday, so unless something changes it looks like the Blues will be counting on Allen tonight.
The Blackhawks projected starter, Antti Raanta, doesn’t have much more experience. He’s only played in 28 NHL contests and none since Oct. 25. As luck would have it though, that game was also against St. Louis during Crawford’s previous stint on the sidelines. St. Louis peppered Raanta with 31 shots to earn a 3-2 victory in the Blues and Blackhawks’ first meeting of the season. After that Scott Darling took over until Corey Crawford was ready to return.
Crawford started in 15 consecutive games and might have played again tonight if not for a lower-body injury. Darling is back in town, which makes this contest all the more important for Raanta. It’s an opportunity for him to reassert himself, but if he ends up being overshadowed by Darling again during Crawford’s absence, then there might not be a role for Raanta when Crawford returns.
In a way, Allen is in a similar predicament now that the St. Louis Blues have three goaltenders inked to one-way contracts. When Elliott returns, will Allen still get much, if any, playing time? That likely depends on how he performs compared to Brodeur going forward.
So while neither team will have their first choice in goal tonight, this is a potentially big game in the career of these two promising young goaltenders. The talent on each netminder’s opposing squad means that this game will be quite the challenge for both of them.