(HockeyStL) -- It’s not often that a team’s MVP is a backup goaltender with a two-way contract, and a salary of $600,000, but the Blues experienced this phenomenon when they signed free agent goaltender Brian Elliott in the off season.
The Brian Elliott story has been intriguing to say the least, as he went from barely making the team out of camp to leading the league in goals-against average and save percentage, and winning over the fan’s hearts by playing a significant role in the Blues’ playoff berth. Now Elliott has added another chapter to this marvelous story, and the Blues and fans are hopeful it’s a long one.
Of course, the referenced chapter is the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blues’ are now on the verge of punching their ticket to advance to the second round for the first time since the NHL’s 2005 lockout. They currently lead the Sharks three games to one, and are hoping that Saturday’s game five is the series finale. The Blues’ goaltending has been the biggest story thus far in the playoffs, but it has also been a bit of an unusual one.
Goaltender Jaroslav Halak was supposed to lead the Blues to a first round victory, but was sidelined in game two with an ankle injury, giving Brian Elliott another chance to shine. This is not the first time Elliott has made the most of an opportunity to shine, as he was thrown into a similar situation when Halak struggled earlier in the season.
Brian Elliott has shown once again why he is deserving of the Blues’ starting goaltender role, leading them to three straight victories while amassing a 1.51 goals-against-average along with a .944 save percentage, stopping 67 of the 71 shots he’s faced. Elliott has been lights out, picking up where he left off at the regular season’s end, and providing no opportunity for the Sharks to strike.
It is easy to understand why the Blues are up three to one in this series when you a look at the goaltending numbers. In game one, Antti Niemi was phenomenal, but he has cooled off since then, and has been inconsistent. The Sharks’ and Antti Niemi are allowing an average of 2.75 goals-per game versus the Blues’ and Elliott’s 1.75. This stat is arguably the difference maker in the series as the Blues have won two of their three games by a one goal margin. It’s pretty simple to pinpoint why the Sharks’ are unable to win, and their problem is solving Brian Elliott.
The odds are against the Sharks, as Elliott found a way to win in 23 of his 37 regular season starts, a success rate of 62 percent. “Backup” goaltenders rarely see as much time as Elliott did this season, and he was able to make the most of his opportunity. The Blues’ inked Elliott to a contract extension, displaying their confidence in him, and now Elliott receives a glorious opportunity to prove himself worthy of the starting role. Head coach Ken Hitchcock decided to allow Halak to start the first two playoff games, but Halak’s recent injury has given Elliott a chance to perform under the spotlight. Should the Blues advance to the second round, Elliott will be the Blues’ MVP of the first round, and will have proven once again why he is a top goaltender.
The next big question is what happens when Jaroslav Halak returns from injury? It would be silly to discuss this topic in great detail as no one knows when/if Halak will return, but I can guarantee one thing: Hitchcock will be forced to consider sticking with Elliott for as long as he remains stellar in net.
Elliott has been arguably the NHL’S greatest story of the year. He has battled for a spot all year, and has earned the right to play on in the postseason. Elliott has shown no sign of decline, and one has to wonder whether or not Elliott will be the one to lead the Blues on a long playoff journey.