This season's been a special one for the St. Louis Blues and their fans. The first division title in 12 years is just icing on the cake of a season that's been punctuated by solid play, effective coaching, league-best defense, and a goatending tandem that's well on its way to finishing with a GAA under 2.00. The Blues haven't exactly been making headlines, but they've been getting praise nonetheless for what they've accomplished this season -- and the goalies are tops.
Being the first tandem to win the Jennings Trophy with a GAA under 2.00 is a big deal; of course other records will go with that. Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak tied the regular season record for most shutouts with 15, and still have three games left to break Tony Esposito and co's old record. Another shutout by Elliott (he holds the club record with 9) and he can finish the season with the league lead in or tied for every goaltender category but wins. They've set a Blues record for shutouts as well, breaking the old mark of 13 set by Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante back in '68-69.
Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott both have GAAs under 2.00 and could finish the season that way, something that neither Hall nor Plante ever accomplished. In '68-69 they got close, with Hall finishing at a 2.17 and Plante finishing with a 1.96. Halak and Elliott, much like Plante and Hall, are the perfect definition of a two-headed goaltending monster. The Blues don't have a number one and number two goalie this season; they again have two number ones.
Does this make their accomplishments greater than Hall and Plante's? That's very much in the eye of the beholder. I usually try to not interject my opinion into these debates -- the point of Tuesdays With Hildy is for you guys to discuss -- but I do think it's important to note the era that each tandem played (or is current playing) in. The equipment today is much larger and a lot less one size fits all than it was when the Blues began play in the NHL. Heck, Plante's the guy who came up with the idea for using a mask, for pete's sake. Granted, it needs to be larger and thicker because of the equipment that the rest of the guys are using -- the speed at which a puck comes flying at the goalie is a hell of a lot faster now thanks to composite sticks and the fact that darn Bobby Hull popularized the slap shot. But the GAAs in the eras before the advent of modern goalie equipment tended to be drastically higher. Pull out an old box of hockey cards and look at the stats on some of the star goalies of the '80s and '90s even if you don't believe me.
The differences in era may not make a difference when it comes to raw ability, but I do believe that they need to be taken into consideration when it comes to deciding which tandem is "better," or if either one really is even superior to the other to begin with.