December 19, 2014

Hitchcock mum on starting goalie for Blues playoff run (AUDIO)

Jaroslav Halak stretches before a game in 2011. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said picking a starting goalie for the playoffs is a luxury and not a burden. The Blues finished second in the Western Conference with 109 points and one of the biggest reasons was solid goaltending from Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. While Hitchcock smiled and said he won’t make his decision until Thursday morning, (the day of the Blues first playoff game with San Jose) if you listen closely, Hitchcock may have leaked his decision already.

AUDIO Blues coach Ken Hitchcock on waiting to name a starting goalie (:35)

Elliott was brought in to battle with Ben Bishop for the backup role to Halak. All Elliott has done is have a career year and set many franchise records along the way. Brian Elliott’s consecutive shutout minutes streak ended last week at 241 minutes and 33 seconds which included three straight shutouts. The mark set a new franchise record for most consecutive shutout minutes by a Blues goalie, passing Manny Legace’s record of 186 minutes and 15 seconds, which was set from Dec. 28, 2007 – Jan. 8, 2008. Elliott led the NHL in goals-against average (1.56), save percentage (.940) and ranked second in shutouts (9), which is a Blues record. Elliott also appeared in the All Star game.

However, Halak is a veteran with solid playoff experience and after a slow start, his numbers are comparable. Halak won 26 of his 46 starts. He had a 1.97 GAA and .926 save percentage. He had six shutouts. Halak has played in 18 playoff games with the Canadiens in 2010 and was the main reason why they beat both Washington and Pittsburgh in seven games before losing in a five-game series to Philadelphia. That playoff performance by Halak was the reason the Blues went out and brought him in.

After a Blues practice, Hitchcock was talking about veterans who step up come playoff time and while he used Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner as examples, one would expect Hitchcock to use that same reasoning when it comes to naming his starting goalie.

AUDIO Hitchcock on veterans in the playoff (:45)