Halak Improving....And More?
The Blues won’t push Jaro Halak to return before his ailing groin is ready but they’re hoping that time is near.
Halak skated on his own this morning, in full gear, as he prepares to find his way back into the lineup. The next step is for Halak to face some shooters which could come as soon as Friday.
Even if he feels good on Friday it may be a stretch to see him in uniform Saturday night. I expected Jake Allen to be here a full week and we’ll have to wait to see if that changes.
Obviously the addition of Halak makes the team better. The strength of the Blues is their depth and goaltending is no exception. I don’t think there’s any doubt Halak is the Blues number one goaltender and his presence alone elevates Elliott. You can say the same about Elliott pushing Halak as it works both ways.
Like a lot of goalies, Elliott has the tendency of getting emotional and if you look around the league most of the top goaltenders excel at channeling their energy and frustration properly. Elliott has the respect of his teammates primarily because of his work habits and preparation. No one works harder than this guy in practice each day but again how you channel your emotions is sometimes the difference between great and average goaltenders.
There are only 60 of these guys playing in the NHL and they’re all good. In terms of skill and ability there’s little gap between the best goaltender in the world and the last backup. This is why we see a different guy sneak up on us every year. If NHL teams knew Anaheim goaltender Viktor Fasth was this good he would have been here a long time ago. He currently leads the league in save% and goals against average.
Ilya Bryzgalov earned a huge contract prior to last season from Philadelphia before struggling much of last season. We’ve seen elite guys such as Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Cam Ward go through their ups and downs. Braden Holtby was the talk of the playoffs last spring and is currently sitting with a save percentage of .86%. Don’t forget Jose Theodore once won the Hart Trophy.
There are countless of other examples we could rattle off.
This is why I admire the guys who find a way to do it every year. It takes and incredible athlete to play the position and even a better one to be consistently great.
Every year is a new season and if you think you can predict how a goaltender is going to play based off of his stats from the previous season good luck.
With this said, I don’t think Blues fans need to be concerned or pessimistic with their goaltending. Both Halak and Elliott are more than capable goalies but there’s something about having both of them that makes the other better.
Ken Hitchcock has decided to move a few players around heading into Thursday’s game with Detroit.
Vladimir Tarasenko will now play with center Patrik Berglund and rookie Jaden Schwartz.
Chris Stewart joins And McDonald and Alex Steen.
David Backes remains with T.J. Oshie and David Perron while Vladimir Sobotka, Scott Nichol, and Ryan Reaves make up the fourth line.
This club can be really good when everyone knows their role. Ryan Reaves is a big part of things but he has to play the way the team needs him to play.
The Blues need this guy to fore-check, be disruptive, finish checks, manage the puck properly, and create energy. When he plays this way he’s very effective. I’m a big fan of what he brings to the table but you have to find consistency in your game if you want to stay in the lineup. There’s no question he’s improved in terms of understanding how to do his job compared to when he first arrived in the NHL.
The Blues will look to rediscover their offensive chemistry that has them third in the NHL in goals per game. You often hear Ken Hitchock say the team can’t put skill ahead of work if they want success. This means keeping it simple with sound structure and eliminating unnecessary individual play. The one-on-one stuff looks nice when it works but when it doesn’t it leads to breakdowns. It also disrupts chemistry and we’ve seen this the last few games.
The Blues are at their best offensively when they control the boards and don’t force pucks to the middle of the ice.
Overall Ken Hitchcock feels the team has played better than their record indicates even though most teams in the league would be happy to swap point totals with the Blues.
I find it interesting Alex Pietrangelo ranks 21st among NHL D-men in ice time and 38th among D-men in PP ice time. Could he play more?
He is averaging just over 25:00 minutes so this isn’t an issue, but as the season progresses so will his ice time.
What hurts is when the Blues get hemmed in their own end with Pietrangelo on the ice. Wade Redden has been a steady influence most of the time since his arrival but most would agree he’s playing a top-two role out of necessity.
The Blues could always make a trade between now and the deadline or even try to get Ian Cole up to speed.
It’s imperative whoever plays with Pietrangelo takes as much workload off of his shoulders as possible. There’s a difference between playing 25 minutes and 25 hard minutes.
Once again congrats to Redden on playing in his 1,000 game. He’ll have plenty of family in attendance.
The Blues currently carry the NHL’s best PP at just over 33%
They allow a league low 21.3 shots per game.
The low shot total plays a role in the Blues right now ranking 27th in blocked shots.
St. Louis protects the puck well considering they have the second fewest giveaways in the NHL. They also have the fewest takeaways.
More to come,
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