By Jason Klau
In the Klau Broz NHL preview, I stated that for the St. Louis Blues, the "playoffs aren’t an absurd notion," and now, they are proving me right.
Third in the Central Division and Fifth in the Western Conference, new head coach Ken Hitchcock has got the Blues moving forward since taking over in early November.
But the biggest part of the Blues resurgence is between the pipes.
27-year-old goaltender Brian Elliot, who going in to this season signed a two-way deal that would see him making a middle class salary in the minors, has made his mark in a big way. In 15 starts this year, Brian Elliot has gone 13-2, and leads the league in both Goals Against Average with a 1.43, and Save Percentage with a .948, and is tied for the league lead with 4 shutouts.
Nice shout out to MLB Bro of the Year David Freese!
Elliot has allowed more than two goals in only one of his 15 starts this year. And it has been crucial, as his team has scored more than three only twice in any of those games. This span also includes eight games where the game was decided by only one goal (including one iced with an empty netter).
Elliot started his career with the Ottawa Senators, where he struggled to establish himself as an NHL starter. He was finally dumped at the deadline last year to Colorado, who let him go to free agency after just a 12 game stint with the club. St. Louis took a gamble on him though. They offered him a two-way contract, likely expecting him to provide depth in the minors, and likely expecting prospect Jake Allen to backup Jaroslav Halak. Elliot though, had other plans.
Jaroslav Halak has not been bad in net for the Blues either, with his 2.27 Goals Against Average and .906 Save Percentage, the two tenders have split time throughout the young season.
Elliot however, is inching toward earning the outright-starting job with every clutch performance.
When one considers the candidates for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goalie of the season, names like Tim Thomas, Henrik Lundqvist, and even Jimmy Howard this year come to mind. Perhaps Elliot's limited number of games (should this pace continue), pooled together with his unsuccessful past, will keep him out of the discussion. However, if this kind of play continues, and the Blues keep up their push towards only their second playoff berth since the 2005 NHL lockout, Brian Elliot could be be a worthy argument in the conversation.