It’s only February, but the debate has officially started — who will be in goal for the St. Louis Blues when the playoffs start?
Ah, who’s kidding who? This debate never stops in St. Louis. It’s a 365-day thing. (This year, 366 days.)
You may recall last year when Brian Elliott had the job taken away from him at the last minute. Young Jake Allen got the nod from coach Ken Hitchcock and proceeded to, well, not play all that great. For the third straight year, the Blues fell in the first round.
It was just the latest chapter of the Blues’ big book of goaltending controversies. There was one in 2014 as well, when Ryan Miller got the nod over Elliott and proceeded to, well, not play all that great.
Certainly, if the playoffs started today, Elliott would be the guy. The 30-year-old has been brilliant while Allen’s been out with an injury.
But the playoffs don’t start today. They’re still almost two months away. So, what happens when Allen returns? Because that’s going to happen pretty soon.
Should Elliott be replaced by his good pal Jake Allen? The former has transitioned from solid backup to impermeable barrier. The latter initially claimed the top spot, and thrived, before a knee injury Jan. 8. The argument makes for sports radio gold. It probably makes for more white hair on Hitch’s head, too.
Only Hitchcock can decide what will get his team out of its first-round rut. Allen deserves a chance to show what he can do. But the clock is ticking. The Blues, comfortably in the playoffs, only have 23 regular-season games left before they have to decide.
Hitchock isn’t talking. Recent history shows us the coach has a tell. When it comes to Elliott vs. the other guy, he tends to pick the other guy.
In a way, it’s a good problem to have. The Blues have two good goalies. Some teams don’t have any. Come April, Hitchcock might simply go with the hottest hand.
In another way, though, Hitch better choose wisely, or else…