Back on March 9, I wrote about Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock having a difficult decision when deciding which goaltender to start for the beginning of the playoffs. I looked at recent history with only three teams since the late 90s with multiple goaltenders who won games en route to winning a Stanley Cup. And the overwhelming reaction, especially on Twitter was one word: Halak. Still convinced?
Last night Brian Elliott pulled off his third consecutive shutout. And if Hitchcock is a man of his word, Jaroslav Halak will be starting in net Thursday night in Chicago. That might lead you to believe that Hitchcock is going to stick with Halak come April 11 when we expect the Blues to host Game 1 of the first round. But take a look at what he told our friend Norm Sanders of the Belleville News-Democrat:
"They've both played good and then there's stretches where one guy's played great, lights out. I think the big story for us is how well they've played collectively and individually. I've never had a situation like this where you've had two goalies play this well for this long. It's been good for us."
Asked who his starter will be for Game 1 of the playoffs, Hitchcock hesitated briefly.
"I don't know if it's a good problem to have, but it's one I'm putting off until the last possible moment," Hitchcock said. "I don't want to even think about it, because I know if I start thinking about it something's going to happen; a guy might get dinged up or whatever. I just feel like I owe it to both guys to continue to play both."
I think we're close to uncharted territory for the Blues. In 13 years, no true goaltender tandem has won a championship. Can you name any team with two goalies who split time on the way to the Cup? I sure as hell can't. I think it might come down to a few factors.
First, Halak has a better playoff resume. Granted, it's a small sample size for both. Elliott has only been in four playoff games when he was with Ottawa and allowed more than four goals a game. He won once in four games. Halak on the other hand took Montreal to the Conference Finals before he arrived here in the summer of 2010.
I think if you look at the style of play, Halak is showing he's a bit more agile right now. Granted, Elliott makes highlight real saves too, but he's really benefited in these three shutouts from reduced chances and low shot totals.
But man, they are both playing with a ton of confidence. Both have had the benefit of a lot of rest. They will be the two freshest players on the roster...outside of Andy McDonald and Matt D'Agostini maybe. Whichever team they face in the first round, that hockey squad will have been worn ragged just trying to get into the playoffs.
I think Hithcock won't buck conventional wisdom and will go with one main goaltender. Which one will it be? Well before the last three games I think we all were convinced it was going to be Halak. Now? I think it might be truly an open competition. If Halak doesn't play a strong game in Chicago on Thursday, I think the debate will be wide open.
What say you fair reader? Take the poll and justify your response in the comments.
And once again, I just want to say thanks for reading our stuff. With the success of the team comes a lot more eyeballs on us. That pushes us to put more stuff on this site. And yes, we welcome the new readers/commenters and value the grizzled veterans.