Looking Ahead At Playoff Goaltending For The St. Louis Blues

What a strange year for the two goaltenders for the St. Louis Blues.

Jaroslav Halak started out shaky and inconsistent. We've said a few times that his uneven play was one of the biggest factors in getting Davis Payne fired in November. If Halak starts the year solidly, maybe they still make the coaching change. Maybe they don't. But what that did cause was the coaching staff giving Brian Elliott a legitimate chance at starting. And he did the most with it leading the league for a time in goals-against average and save percentage. And then Elliott came a little bit back to earth as he was often matched against stronger opponents. It was about that time that Halak resurrected his season and has been nearly unbeatable. In his last 27 starts, he's 19-4-3 (he got a no decision in New Jersey). His last loss was on Valentine's day in Columbus.

This gives the Blues an interesting situation. Halak is getting more starts and has played 400 more minutes than Elliott. Halak has 22 wins to Elliott's 20. Both have GAA below 1.90 and save percentages above 92 percent. They are a potent one-two punch. But what will happen when the Blues make it to the playoffs? How will Ken Hitchcock manage two guys who have played well enough to start in the playoffs? Recent history shows that the vast majority of teams that win the Stanley Cup have one dominant goaltender. Going back to Hitchcock's Cup-winning team in Dallas in 1999, here's a snapshot of each champion's goaltending situation.

  • 2011: Tim Thomas played every minute of every playoff game last year for the Boston Bruins. During the regular season, he was the workhorse as well, allowing Tuukka Rask just 11 wins on the season.
  • 2010: Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi both earned 26 wins in the regular season for the Blackhawks, but Niemi became the clear No. 1 in the postseason earning all 16 playoff wins. He gave up the crease to Huet for just 20 playoff minutes on the way to the Cup.
  • 2009: Marc-Andre Fleury earned the majority of goaltender wins all year for the Penguins. His backup, Mathieu Garon, earned six wins in the regular season but played just 24 minutes in relief in the playoffs.
  • 2008: Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek both earned 27 wins in the regular season, but Hasek was the No. 1 guy for the Red Wings going into the playoffs. That changed when age finally caught up to the man with the rubber spine. He earned two wins in the first round and then struggled mightily. As a last-ditch effort to save the postseason, Osgood was giving the keys to the Detroit goal and didn't look back earning 14 playoff wins and at one point posting some of the best playoff statistics in net since the 1960s.
  • 2007: Jean-Sebastian Giguere was not bulletproof when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup. He was clearly the starter, but some struggles in the playoffs led to Ilya Bryzgalov earning three wins out of the 16 needed to win the Cup.
  • 2006: Martin Gerber racked up 38 wins in the regular season for the Hurricanes. He got one in the playoffs before rookie Cam Ward moved in and stole his job. This was the first year of three in a row with multiple goaltenders getting playoff wins for the Cup-winning team, the only three years it happened in this sample of champions.
  • 2005: No goaltender won any playoff games that year.
  • 2004: Nikolai Khabibulin was so drunk with power for the Lightning, he gave up just 34 minutes of playoff time to someone named John Grahame, a name that sounds like an English accountant.
  • 2003: Martin Brodeur won 42 games in the regular season and all the playoff games in the postseason. Corey Schwab played a grand total of 28 minutes combined in two playoff games for the Devils.
  • 2002: All you need to know about the Red Wings this year: Hasek 41 wins, Manny Legace 11 playoff minutes.
  • 2001: Patrick Roy carried the Avalanche to 40 wins in the first season. David Aebischer got his name on the Cup playing 1 minute in the playoffs. That's right, one. Hell, it could have been less than one because they round all the numbers for goalie minutes.
  • 2000: Brodeur was the only player to appear in the playoffs for the Devils after earning 43 wins.
  • 1999: Hitchcock tried to keep Eddie Belfour a little more rested that season. The Eagle got 35 wins while Roman Turek was in net for 16 victories. But when the games really counted, Belfour played every minute in the playoffs. Including that one minute in overtime when Brett Hull's skate was in the crease and the puck went into the net past Hasek.

For these 12 teams, there are a couple trends. Only three of them saw a goaltender play every single minute of the playoffs. But while most of them played more than one goalie, only three of them had more than one goaltender earn a playoff victory. Of those three teams, the 2008 Wings and 2006 Hurricanes each had a starter struggle before riding the hot guy all the way to the finish line. Only the Ducks really used multiple goalies in the playoffs with Bryzgalov getting those three wins.

What's all that mean? Not much. The only real implication is that Cup-winning teams seem to have a level of consistency in net. I don't know if Hitchcock will stick with Halak come playoff time or if he'll be open to splitting up some playing time. He will probably be reluctant to do so if he thinks about the teams that have won before, including his own in 1999. The Blues might have their best chance of winning if their lone All-Star player doesn't see the ice much after early April.

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