ST. LOUIS – Jake Allen sustained an injury in the Blues’ Jan. 8 matchup with the Anaheim Ducks, forcing GM Doug Armstrong to place him on injured reserve. From there it was simple; the Blues would turn entirely to Brian Elliott for stability, tenacity, and positive results. In the ‘Notes 17 games since, not only has Brian fulfilled expectations, but he’s fulfilled much, much more.
The Blues’ lack in offensive production, up until just recently, has been taxing to a Blues roster that is struggling to stay healthy. Yet Elliott has come to the rescue on more than one occasion to save games for St. Louis. In a recent game against the Kings, his incredible save on LA’s Lucic in overtime kept the game going and gave the momentum back to his teammates, who rewarded him with the W just a short time later. Against Tampa Bay, Elliott kept his team locked in a low-scoring affair for 60 minutes, helping St. Louis earn one point and eventually a second in overtime. The list goes on and on. Not only has he done what has been asked, but he’s done what has been necessary for the Blues to stay locked into the chase for 1st in the Central Division. Clearly he has earned both the success and the respect, right?
Jake Allen was lifted from injured reserve on Feb. 21. Could it be that after 17 games of showing his true value, Elliott was finally the no doubt option to start for St. Louis? Despite his tremendous production in goal, Elliott still finds himself tasked with battling Allen for the number one spot.
And so, the question lives on under the arch: Allen, or Elliott?
If history is any indication, then most fans know that it usually comes down to one goaltender that is relied on the most down the stretch, and eventually the playoffs. To find a rhythm and to have the net front presence necessary in high caliber games, it is the momentum and poise of one goaltender that is expected to carry teams deep into the spring and early summer.
The Blues are now tasked with finding out who that person is going to be for them.
In observing the Blues recent success and momentum in low-scoring games, Elliott factors astronomically into the equation. His play over these past few weeks is something that is hard to overlook if you are the Blues front office or Coach Ken Hitchcock.
Allen has yet to start another game since being placed on injured reserve, and seeing how well he has recovered and whether or not he will be ready to play at full potential remains a question. But Coach Hitchcock turned to Jake far more often than Brian through the first half of the ’15-’16 campaign. Allen earned the start in 33 games prior to injury.
Clearly both have performed, and performed well, at their respective points in the season. Each of them brings with them a confidence and a determination that makes the pair a dangerous tandem for any opponent. Having two, potential number one goalies with great numbers isn’t a problem. But unfortunately, you can only start one goaltender. For the Blues, the question going forward is who?