The 2011-2012 season seems like it was an eternity ago by now. That being said, it is easy to forget just how good some players were last year. A couple in particular are the Blues' goalies Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.
Halak put up a 26-12-7 along with a 1.97 goals against average and a .926 save percentage. When Halak needed a break, Elliott was happy to step in as he put up a 23-10-4 record with a 1.56 GAA and .940 save percentage. Simply put, the duo made he Blues the best goaltending team in the league.
Now, the 2013 season has not gone quite as well for the duo. After a solid start by both goaltenders, Halak went down with a groin injury. Then things began to spiral out of control in net.
If there is a knock on Elliott's 2011-2012 campaign, it is that he could never set himself apart from Jaro. When Elliott was given several starts in a row, he would tend to struggle. Elliott is a superb back-up or co-starter in net, but he struggles in the spotlight as a bona fide number one goalie.
With Halak unable to play, Elliott was thrust into the net as the starter. Saying he struggled would be a bit of an understatement. Elliott let in several easy goals and looked completely rattled at times in the net.
With Elliott struggling and Halak injured, the team called upon prospect Jake Allen to see if he could help get the team back on track. Thus far, the idea has been extremely successful.
Allen has gone 8-2 in 10 starts with a 2.26 GAA and .915 save percentage. He has successfully swooped in made everyone forget about the dominance of Halak and Elliott last season.
Jake's success this year can be contributed to a few different things. For one, he has been playing in the AHL since October, unlike many goalies who were locked out. He had the benefit of playing against several NHL caliber players while others sat at home.
Also, Allen is not who teams anticipated in net. In preseason meetings, teams had very little time to study film due to the lockout. When teams examined Blues' goalies, they were certainly focusing Halak and Elliott. Simply put, teams do not know a lot about Allen and his tendencies in net.
Allen has also been placed into a much more defensively stable team. Earlier this season, the Blues' defense looked downright awful at times. Halak and Elliott were often times hurt by plays in front of them.
Halak is slated to start Saturday versus Edmonton. With Jake Allen's play of late, one might ask why? Simple, the team needs to get Halak back to number one form.
As great as Allen has been, the Blues need their veteran goalie down the stretch. When Halak is on his game, he is one of the best in the game.
Halak also has shown the ability to carry a team through the playoffs. He was undoubtedly the biggest reason the Canadiens were so successful in the 2009-2010 playoffs.
If the Blues can get Halak playing like he is capable of, then he will become the teams best option in net.
Halak's return is almost guaranteed, but Elliott's is much more unknown.
Elliott has been awful in net this season, but could Allen's success and a return by Halak be enough to mellow him out and allow him to play to his capabilities once again?
It is not out of the question. Remember, last season when Elliott began to struggle, Halak would step in for a few games. When Elliott would return to the lineup, he would be right back to his stellar form.
Elliott needs to rebuild his confidence, and maybe his time away has allowed him to shake off some of his demons. Bottomline, the guy deserves at least another chance before the team ships him off.
Maybe Elliott cannot regain form and continues to struggle, but with the potential of him playing like he did last season, is it a risk worth taking for a game or two? I believe so.
All-in-all, it comes down to Halak's next couple of starts. If Jaro can go out and play like Jaro, he can regain his role as the team's number one goalie.
If Jaro becomes the number one, the team may be comfortable enough to use Elliott as the back-up, giving him another shot.
The two have not been themselves this season, but a couple of games could change that. I do not think Doug Armstrong is ready to give up on his Jennings Trophy winners just yet.
TJ Oshie is supposed to come back from IR on saturday, so somebody is getting sent down. It will be interesting to see who the team chooses. Do they continue to carry 3 goalies, or is one of them heading to Peoria?
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