For the last two decades, the St. Louis Blues have gone through their fair share of goaltenders.They had their young goaltending stud in Curtis Joseph until he was dealt to Edmonton (along with the rights to Mike Grier) for a 1st round pick (Marty Reasoner) and another that was later dealt to Los Angeles.
In between then and now, the Blues have gone through a slew of goaltenders. Passerby’s like Grant Fuhr, Fred Brathwaite, Roman Turek, Curtis Sanford, and Chris Mason. Former Red Wings castoffs, Chris Osgood, Manny Legace, and most recently, Ty Conklin.
Though when the Blues acquired goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for prospects Lars Eller and Ian Schultz, many felt that they had acquired the young, up-and-coming goaltending stud they’ve been missing.
Yet in the Blues first season with Halak, they had their highs and lows. Halak’s 7 shutouts ranked 4th in the NHL last season. Yet his overall stats have Halak’s season ranked about 15th-18th or middle of the pack against all the starting goaltenders in the NHL last season.
Many people, myself included, had higher for Halak in his first season. Injuries played their hand as the Blues lost key players for large amounts of time and saw Halak need to stand on his head nearly night after night. Some nights he did, others he couldn’t steal the games needed.
Bad luck also set in for Halak, like putting the puck in his own net against the Wings.
He did have his fair share of highlight reel goals, from his huge stick save against the Predators, his great glove stop against the Sharks, and his pad save against the Red Wings late in the game. He was a bright spot in a rough season for St. Louis, and he’s expected to be the backbone of the Blues this season.
They need Halak to be able to keep them in games and steal them games now and then. He’s got to be the goaltender the Blues expected him to be when we acquired him last off-season.
That said now, Halak isn’t going to be the only goalie in St. Louis next season.
Most teams go into training camp knowing who their number one and number two are in net. This isn’t the case in St. Louis. The back up job is up for grabs in training camp this year. It’ll be between the St. Louis kid who has developed in the Blues system, Ben Bishop, or it’ll be the veteran signed in the off-season, Brian Elliot.
The argument for Brian Elliot is his experience. Elliot has over 140 NHL games under his belt, and a career record of 61-53-16. The 9th round draft pick went from hockey unknown to a potential number one goaltender. Time was needed for the young netminder from Newmarket, Ontario native to develop, yet injuries to Ottawa’s goaltenders threw Elliot into the spotlight a lot earlier than expected.
His development halted and Elliot became spotlight of ridicule. Many people ignoring the skills that the 6’3″ 201lbs goaltender has. He has great lateral movement in net. Top notch vision, along with a strong glove hand are key points for Elliot’s game. His great side-to-side movement makes him one of the better goaltenders when facing 2-on-1 situations.
Elliot fell into disfavor in Ottawa then was traded to an abysmal Colorado team last trade deadline. He was not retained and was brought in as a potential back up to Jaroslav Halak.
Ben Bishop is standing in his was however, and it’ll be a battle between Elliot and Bishop in training camp to decide who gets the back up position in St. Louis and who gets sent down to the Blues AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen.
Bishop, doesn’t have near the experience as Elliot does in the NHL. Only 13 games with the Blues makes Bishop’s shot at getting the back up role out of camp a lot harder. His 4-5-1 record doesn’t help him either, yet he has shown the Blues he is a very good American Hockey League goaltender as he’s posted very solid numbers for the Peoria Rivermen the last two seasons.
This will be the fourth season with the St. Louis Blues organization and it’ll be a battle for a role he’s been groomed for. He’s been brought up in the last two seasons and he’s shown the club he has the skills to be an NHL goaltender.
Bishop uses his great size and his positioning skills to stop the puck consistently. He is a big man, standing at 6’7″ and weighing in at 215lbs. He is the tallest goaltender ever to play in the National Hockey League, and he uses his size to his advantage.
Being 6’7″ tall, he has a massive wing span and gets his arms all over the net. When he is down in his butterfly, there is literally no room to shoot as he covers the entire bottom portion of the net. His only weakness is his agility. He’s a big guy and moving into the right position takes a hair longer than the smaller goaltenders, giving shooters a little bit longer to take a shoot. While I don’t see this stopping him from being an NHL goalie, I do worry on how it might hinder his quest to be a number one netminder.
It doesn’t matter which of these two goaltenders backs up Jaroslav Halak in St. Louis, the Blues will rely on them for a good 20 or so games and will need them to be able to stop pucks on a regular basis, other wise the Blues will struggle to be a team that pushes for the post season.