Brian Elliott has had to start ten games in a row, going 6-2-2 in relief of injured goalie Jake Allen. Allen, despite a shakey playoff performance, has been the de facto starter this season, and has played very well. He hasn't out-played Elliott, though.
This isn't new territory for the Blues' maligned would-be starter.
Brian Elliott is the only Blues goalie who has won a playoff series in over a decade, and it should easily be more than one if the team managed to provide goal support to him. His reward? The Ryan Miller Experiment and being benched for most of the end of last season and the playoffs because Ken Hitchcock was riding the hot hand. The latter is excusable, because why not ride the hot hand - unless you're hesitant to realize when that hand cools off. The former situation was a direct statement by the Blues to Elliott on their level of trust in him, despite near-consistently solid play.
The Blues' all-time shutout leader is getting a taste of being a starter again, and is showing it. Here are his stats for the last ten games:
|FEB 02 '16 STL @ NSH||W||0||16||16||1.000||1||0||60:00||0||0||0||0|
|JAN 24 '16 STL @ CHI||L||2||25||23||.920||0||0||58:00||1||1||0||0|
|JAN 22 '16 STL @ COL||O||1||41||40||.976||0||2||65:00||1||0||0||0|
|JAN 20 '16 STL @ DET||W||1||30||29||.967||0||0||60:00||0||1||0||0|
|JAN 18 '16 PIT @ STL||W||2||38||36||.947||0||0||60:00||2||0||0||0|
|JAN 16 '16 MTL @ STL||W||3||49||46||.939||0||0||62:03||2||1||0||0|
|JAN 14 '16 CAR @ STL||L||3||24||21||.875||0||0||47:02||2||1||0||0|
|JAN 12 '16 NJD @ STL||W||2||24||22||.917||0||0||59:53||2||0||0||0|
|JAN 09 '16 STL @ LAK||W||1||27||26||.963||0||0||64:55||1||0||0||0|
|JAN 08 '16 STL @ ANA||O||2||27||25||.926||0||0||37:57||1||1||0||0|
These are some of the best stats in the league during this time period. The reason that he has only(?) six wins is thanks to the Blues inability to score goals when needed. He easily could have eight wins out of ten games played. None of these stats should surprise Blues fans who have paid attention to Elliott since his arrival in 2011.
Elliott has gone on streaks like this before. Here's an eight-game tear from last season:
|NOV 25 '14 OTT @ STL||0||16||16||1.000||0||0||33:58||0||0||0||0|
|NOV 22 '14 STL @ OTT||W||2||26||24||.923||0||0||59:35||0||2||0||0|
|NOV 18 '14 STL @ BOS||L||2||17||15||.882||0||0||57:31||2||0||0||0|
|NOV 15 '14 WSH @ STL||W||1||25||24||.960||0||0||59:56||1||0||0||0|
|NOV 11 '14 BUF @ STL||W||1||29||28||.966||0||0||59:53||0||1||0||0|
|NOV 08 '14 NSH @ STL||L||2||35||33||.943||0||0||58:50||2||0||0||0|
|NOV 03 '14 STL @ NYR||W||3||39||36||.923||0||0||65:00||2||1||0||0|
|NOV 01 '14 COL @ STL||W||2||29||27||.931||0||0||65:00||0||2||0||0|
He had a six game winning streak the year prior, from December 21st through January 7th.
Here's a pretty good streak to close out the lockout-shortened 2013 season, in which he had three shutouts in a row:
|APR 19 '13 DAL @ STL||W||1||22||21||.955||0||0||60:00||1||0||0||0|
|APR 18 '13 PHX @ STL||W||1||34||33||.971||0||0||64:23||0||1||0||0|
|APR 16 '13 VAN @ STL||W||1||22||21||.955||0||0||65:00||0||1||0||0|
|APR 14 '13 CHI @ STL||L||2||26||24||.923||0||0||58:17||1||0||1||0|
|APR 11 '13 STL @ MIN||W||0||23||23||1.000||1||0||60:00||0||0||0||0|
|APR 09 '13 STL @ NSH||W||0||15||15||1.000||1||0||59:58||0||0||0||0|
|APR 07 '13 STL @ DET||W||0||28||28||1.000||1||0||60:00||0||0||0||0|
|APR 04 '13 STL @ CHI||W||3||36||33||.917||0||0||65:00||3||0||0||0|
These are ok stats, I guess.
He had nine shutouts his first season as a member of the Blues.
So what gives? Why is a running joke right now how he'll be stapled to the bench when Allen comes back? What is so terrifying about a 1A/1B tandem when both goaltenders are more than capable of playing consistently good hockey? Is it our tendency to equate the team's shortcomings as the personal failings of the goaltender - is this what has us convinced that Allen needs to be the de facto, and only, starter?
Brian Elliott's solid play isn't a new phenomenon, and neither is his status as the not-a-starter. There have been streaks of poor play from him, streaks of poor play from the team, but neither disqualifies him from a position as a co-starter with Allen. Will HItchcock continue on with his "best player" in the crease, or will Allen get the start ASAP upon his return?
It is telling that fans disagree over the skills of both of the Blues' goalies, and it is telling that the coaching staff doesn't seem to have full trust in either of them. What that's telling of remains to be seen - we're not in the room, we're not privy to decisions. As a fan, though, I find it difficult to look at Elliott and argue that he is nothing more than a backup.