(HockeyStL) -- Grading the goaltenders
Starting the season off 1-6-0 was not the way Halak envisioned the start of his second season with the St. Louis Blues. It was obvious that something was ailing Halak, and it was suggested that maybe the death of fellow countryman and former Blue Pavol Demitra being fresh on the mind of Halak was the cause of his poor play. The same night that Ken Hitchcock coached his first game behind the Blues’ bench there was a ceremony to honor Igor Korolev and Pavol Demitra who both lost their lives in a tragic plane crash. Halak was in net, and he ironically shutout the Chicago Blackhawks in what was his best game of the season up to that point. Halak appeared to be back on his game as he went 5-1-4 in his next ten starts. His goals against average began to fall and his save percentage started to rise slowly, but steadily.
Halak was not as consistent the rest of the season as fans would have liked, but he still helped to lead the Blues into the playoffs, and finished the regular season with a record of 26-12-7. Halak had a goals against average of 1.97 and a save percentage of .926 in the regular season, and found himself in the NHL’s top ten in both of those categories. Halak’s six shutouts also placed him in the top ten for that category as well. In the playoffs, Halak went down in game two of the first round with an ankle injury that ended the playoffs for Halak, and arguably for the Blues as well.
Final grade: B+
Signed in the offseason at next to no cost, Brian Elliott came into the city of St. Louis knowing expectations were low, and without even a guarantee that he would even be on the NHL roster at the start of the regular season. After narrowly beating out Ben Bishop for the backup goaltending spot, Elliott understood that he would have to be consistent if he wanted to remain in the NHL, and as the NHL quickly found out, that would be no problem for Elliott. Elliott’s first start as a member of the Blues came in relief of an inconsistent Halak. Former head coach Davis Payne was willing to try anything to get the Blues going, so putting Elliott in net was something that he decided might be worth trying.
Elliott started his first game on October 15 in San Jose against and always dynamite Sharks team. Elliott emerged victorious allowing only two goals to get by him. Elliott put on a display, coming up with a highlight-reel play, and accumulating a save-percentage of .944 in his first game as a Note. With Halak’s early struggles, the Blues decided to keep going with Elliott. Elliott won eight of his first ten starts, and it was becoming clear that Elliott deserved more than just the backup role. After replacing Davis Payne as head coach in early November, Ken Hitchcock made it abundantly and immediately clear that both goalies started with clean slates and would have to battle for playing time. This battle ensued throughout the whole year, and led to the second most points in franchise history for the Blues.
Elliott finished the regular season with a record of 23-10-4 while owning a league-leading save percentage (.940) and goals against average (1.56). In the postseason, Elliott was forced to start in seven of the Blues’ nine playoff games due to Halak’s ankle injury. The load was too heavy for Elliott who lost four of the seven games, and the Blues were eliminated in the second round. Elliott received a contract extension due to his incredible season, and there’s no reason to not expect more of the same in the future.
Final grade: A