(HockeyStL) -- Putting Brian Elliott in net to start the playoffs wasn’t a tough decision for head coach Ken Hitchcock. Elliott has been on a tear of late and is deserving of starting role at least for the first couple of games.
The Blues clinched the fourth seed in the Western Conference on Saturday with their win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The Los Angeles Kings beat the San Jose Sharks late Saturday evening, setting up a first round matchup between the Blues and the Kings.
While goaltender Jaroslav Halak is healthy, and ready to play when called upon, Hitchcock announced his decision to stick with Elliott after Saturday’s win.
“He’s our goalie right now,” said Hitchcock. He’s the guy we are going to go with.”
“I like his frame of mind, I like his disposition. He’s a confident guy right now and we are going to be needing him.”
Elliott put on quite the showing in April with a franchise record 11 wins in his 13 appearances. Elliott had a .948 save percentage and a 1.45 goals against average in April.
“It was a good month,” said Elliott. “But I’m looking forward to the next month being better.”
But it wasn’t smooth sailing through the whole season for Elliott.
Elliott lost his job to rookie goaltender Jake Allen in mid-January. Elliott had lost five straight games, and was not up to par. When Allen took over, the Blues’ slide in the standings was halted. Because of Allen’s play, Elliott did not regain his job back until the beginning of April. Since then, he has been lights out.
Fans will remember Elliott’s stellar play last season and wonder if he has regained his form. As of late, it certainly appears that way. Last year, Elliott finished the season with a 23-10-4 record. His .940 save percentage and his 1.56 goals against average were the best in the National Hockey League. Elliott shared the Jennings Trophy with partner Halak for allowing the fewest goals allowed in the regular season.
However, the duo was split early in the playoffs when Halak went down with a lower-body injury. Elliott played well in his first few starts, but began to show some inconsistencies in the series against the L.A. Kings. Hitchcock likes where Elliott is as currently, and says he is playing similarly to the way he did last year when he was effective.
“He’s back playing the way he did all of last year,” said Hitchcock. “He was very good when ‘Jaro’ got hurt in the playoffs and then he had his inner-ear infection and didn’t really play up to par until the last game when he was healthy again.”
When Elliott is confident, not much can get by him. Although he has clearly been the star of the Blues’ second half, Elliott is remaining humble and sending a consistent reminder that he has had a lot of help lately from his teammates.
“The goalie is the last line of defense, but it is really about how the guys in front of you play,” said Elliott. “They played really well down the stretch. It makes it easier on me. It’s a team game and we have been playing better and better as a team.”
The upcoming series is a second chance for Elliott to best the Kings. Considering that a month ago Elliott’s participation in the playoffs was in question due to his poor game, the turnaround is an outstanding one. Now Elliott’s play has earned him a shot at redemption, and he’s ready to embrace it.