Cleat Geeks

Elliott or Allen: NOTE’d Controversy in St. Louis

The Blues are 3-1 in their last 4 after a tough loss against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday (April 7th), even without two of their stars in Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen. Though their play has been formidable, St. Louis couldn’t look anymore unsure of themselves. Inconsistencies at times, have befuddled the organization all year with questions in net, and even more on the blue line.

Gaping holes continue to allow teams to pepper the Blues with odd man rushes into their defensive zone. During far too many games throughout the season, odd man rushes have been so prevalent, that one might think the NHL rules have changed to allow for a mid-game shootout, with two players free to attack the Blues net. They’ll need to fix this glaring issue if they hope to remain competitive and change the stigma that hovers over the organization like a dark cloud…, a great regular season club, but an early out in the Playoffs.

The objective is a birth in the Stanley Cup Finals, concluding with the hoisting the Cup. This of course is every season’s motivation, but this year is different and fans can feel it. There is a sense of urgency not too often seen, surrounding the organization. This may be due to notion that few previous rosters are bursting at the seams with the talent throughout the lines, such as the current ones. This bolstered roster has the ability to carry St. Louis into the Finals for the first time since 1970. Regardless of the issues (and every club has them) the Blues are providing fans a different look from last year with their play. Unlike last year’s final 6 game skid with a plethora of injuries, St. Louis is facing adversity with resilience. The pressure is on the organization as a whole, but the ultimate result will fall solely on the shoulders of head coach, Ken Hitchcock.

Ken Hitchcock

“Maybe for him (Elliott), but not for me…, I’ve got to do what’s best for the hockey club. And what’s best for the hockey club is whoever’s playing the best gets to play. That’s just the way it is.” Head Coach, Ken Hitchcock, on notifying Elliott that Allen would be starting Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets instead of him.

Looking at the Blues currently, there are some similarities to last year. Bortuzzo’s lagging injury that few knew about, took him out early in the game against Chicago. He now marks the third player to go down, just as the NHL Playoffs are about to begin on April 15th. The good news is that all three players should be back to full speed when the 1st round of the Playoffs begin. There are concerns as to how this will affect the overall chemistry of the lines when these players do return. Last year’s Playoffs were a prime example of this, with players funneling into the mix during a time when the intensity level of play is at its peak. The Playoffs are not a time to make line adjustments and figure out what works best. In the Playoffs, teams will cut an opponent wide open and make their weakness known for all to see. Rarely, does a team have opportunities to right their wrongs. This is something the St. Louis Blues know all too well, especially in recent history. The names Los Angeles and Chicago probably fail to bring about good memories.

The news presented by the Blues organization concerning their near term decision to stick with Allen in goal, has already caused an overflow of controversy between fans and the media. The two goalies in Elliott and Allen are seemingly stuck in the middle. On one side, Elliott has forced Hitchcock to turn an eye to Allen. In his last four starts, Elliott is 1-3, with a .834 save percentage, while Allen is 4-1-1 in his last six starts, with a remarkable .962 save percentage.

Allen however, is not playoff tested. This year marks his first full NHL season. Furthermore, when Elliott went down with his knee injury on November 25th, 2014, things did not go well for Allen. The Blues called in veteran, and future Hall of Fame goalie, Martin Brodeur, instead of looking to their two-way option in Jordan Binnington. Even after Brodeur came to St. Louis, Allen ended up sporting a very low .899 save percentage during that point in the season, right along with Brodeur. Because of this, both fans and the organization anxiously awaited the return of Elliott. Once Elliott returned, Brodeur decided it was time to retire, while Allen was able to regain his former confidence that saw stability restored in net.

Elliott has been one of the best goalies in the NHL since he arrived in St. Louis (stats below). This year is Elliott’s worst full season collectively since his arrival, and yet overall, he’s still had a solid season (even with his recent slump). Elliott ranks 10th in goals against average at .227. Before the untimely collapse of a defense that began faltering on their fundamentals just past the midpoint, Elliott spent most of the season as the 4th best goalie (statistically) in the NHL. The breakdown was greatly attributed to the lack of presence from Kevin Shattenkirk, who sustained an abdominal injury against the Washington Capitals on February 1st. Due to Elliott’s outstanding play, he was designated as one of this year’s NHL All-Stars; though most have soon forgotten. Elliott now sits in wait, hoping to once again prove himself in the Playoffs, and it won’t be the first time if he’s given the nod.

Brian Elliott Regular Season Stats

(Excluding Lockout Shortened Season)
  Goals Against Average Save Percentage

2011-2012

1.56 .940
2013-2014 1.96

.922

2014-2015 2.27

.916

Total 1.93

.926

By the end of the Blues short-lived 2012-13 Playoffs, Elliott was one of the few better factors of the Blues play against the Los Angeles Kings. Elliott posted a .919 save percentage and a dismal 1.90 goals against average. St. Louis could not support Elliott’s efforts, and were only able to muster 6 goals in their final 4 games while blowing a 2-0 series lead. Others believe, that the cause was actually all Elliott; that if he hadn’t let in a couple of soft goals, the Blues could have continued. Whatever the perspectives, this was the last time Brian Elliott was able to see a start in the Playoffs.

Allen, on the other side, has a lot to offer in his short career in the NHL. The Blues have taken their time grooming the young Allen who has had ample time to grow. A path that most goaltenders wish they had. Allen is a very poised and sharp goaltender, as well as a fantastic asset with a strong glove and extremely fast reflexes. Since he was chosen in the 2nd round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, he has come into his own. Just last season, he was recognized as the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award winner. This award is given to the American Hockey League’s most outstanding goaltender. It is because of these reasons, and many more, that Ken Hitchcock feels he can rely heavily on Allen’s play right now. He emphasized this to reporters on Monday (April 6th), “we see a guy that is hot, who’s feeling it, so we ride it out.”

Is this enough for the seasoned head coach to place all of his hope in the untested Allen? The age old adage is to ride the hot hand, but this decision is not for the regular season, it’s for the Playoffs. Elliott fairs well under pressure, as can be seen by last year’s outstanding play, when he thought he’d be traded instead of Jaroslav Halak. Or even before that, when St. Louis welcomed him at his career’s lowest point, when Colorado all but showed him the door. There is further evidence to support this viewpoint.

Last year’s Miller experiment went awfully wrong. Doug Armstrong’s blockbuster move ended in flames, leaving him shaking his head waiting for yet another season. Hitchcock was also questioned, as he continued to leave Elliott sidelined, amidst goaltending by Miller that was nothing short of a train wreck. By series end, Miller was left with a .897 save percentage and a packed bag out-of-town. As this season began, Elliott was finally notified he’d be getting his first true opportunity and designation as the number one goalie for the Note. While Elliott has proven consistency more often than not, it would appear that Hitchcock has already made the final decision. Allen’s play, surely hasn’t given him a reason to look back in Elliott’s direction.

Elliott may not be the right direction for the Blues to go, but discounting the very real factor that he holds the cumulative regular season franchise record (including the lockout shortened season) in shutouts (20), save percentage (.921), and goals against average (2.00), would be errant at best. Either way, Hitchcock is stuck in a corner while fighting to make the right moves for this team he helped create, while potentially risking his job in St. Louis doing it. All signs currently point to Allen, but the true determination of success will come within the conclusion of the season in which, we might just see a little of both goaltenders when the Playoffs are in full stride. One thing is for sure, I’m glad I’m not in Hitchcock’s predicament.

Leave a Reply

GET YOUR  ON!

If you like this site or just simply want to school your friends because you got the information first.  

Join us on the field! Click on any of the links below.

%d bloggers like this: