What a mess, Eh?
Two weeks ago the St. Louis Blues were being pummeled by opposing offenses. Bad goaltending and bad defense combined for an onslaught of goals against the last home stand.
This week, the Blues showcased a shut down goalie and a shut down defense. The problem is that goalie was not Jaroslav Halak nor Brian Elliott, the pair that took home the Jennings Trophy for best NHL tandem.
Halak went down with a groin injury which left Elliott as number one. Blues fans witnessed last post season what happens to Elliott when forced into the top spot. Possibly the push for games sparks Elliott’s play, or maybe it’s the comfort that the team does not have to rely on him every night. But for some reason or another, Elliott has only played well with Halak there with him (which includes his career before he came to St. Louis, sadly).
With the shortened season in the balance and in the midst of a five game losing streak, the Blues had to make a change.
Part of the goaltending depth St. Louis can boast of is twenty-two year old Jake Allen. The second round 2008 pick of the Blues was called up to back up Elliott…until things unraveled.
Allen would get the nod at the Joe Louis Arena to face the Detroit Redwings for his first career NHL start, and that is where the fun would begin. He picked up his first win in enemy territory that night in overtime against the Central Division rivals. Such a victory cannot be downplayed as it is difficult in the best of times to top Detroit on their ice.
The rookie keeper followed up with another win in Calgary. The performance was highlighted by a ‘Save of the Year’ (video) nomination. No big deal for Allen who kept his cool under pressure.
Blues head coach, Ken Hitchcock, obviously would want to ride the hot hand for the next stop on the road trip which is where the mess came to light.
Allen would start in Vancouver where he nonchalantly denied both shoot out attempts by the Canucks for his third win in as many tries. But it was not Elliott backing up Allen.
Halak returned from his injury Sunday night only to play the role of backup for the new keeper. Naturally, there is not enough room for three goalies on the bench which made Elliott the odd man out and he suited up in the press box.
So here the team sits after a three game winning streak with three goalies. One fresh off injury. One hoping to keep his head above water. Another winning hockey games.
There essentially is only one option for management given the current situation barring another injury. Send the winner back to the minors so he can still play.
Halak will more than likely receive the bulk of starts with a chance of scattered Elliott games for the rest of the season. Allen may have proved himself to the Blues faithful, but he is not going to supplant Halak for the top spot. It is much more important in the rookie’s development to play on a nightly basis which would not happen if he is the backup. While there is an extra roster spot and the team can keep all three, the proper workload for any of them cannot be achieved and would not be the best outcome for the team.
Halak is the starting goalie for the St. Louis Blues now. Elliott is the backup now. Allen is the future, and the future looks good.