Which Elliott Shows Up in Dallas?
What happened last year is in the past.
With a 48-game schedule and coming off a four month labor dispute you can’t compare this season to what happened a year ago.
We’re seeing this all over the NHL, not just in St. Louis. Look no further than the New York Rangers who could be in danger of missing the playoffs after winning the President’s Trophy last season.
The Florida Panthers won the Southeast division last year and now sit dead last in the Eastern Conference. Carolina now leads the Southeast after finishing 12th in the conference and last in their division a year ago.
The Philadelphia Flyers finished with over 100 points last season and are just now starting to become part of the playoff discussion.
In the West the Anaheim Ducks lead the Pacific division following a dismal season last year which saw them finish with 80 points, good for last place in their division.
In other words there’s little carry over from last season to this year. With limited training camp and no pre-season this is a season unlike any other. When you’re constantly playing four in six or five in eight there’s almost zero predictability.
Which makes the run Chicago is on even more incredible.
Elliott Returns in Net...
Speaking of unpredictable, look no further than St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott. There’s been almost zero carry over in his play this season and at times has looked like a different goaltender. With a shortened season there’s little time to allow a goalie to figure things out or find his game. It’s up to him ease everyone’s nerves and a solid outing against the Stars would go a long way in accomplishing this.
Let’s be honest here, the Blues have no idea what they’re going to get from Elliott today in Dallas.
Head Coach Ken Hitchcock made a conscious decision to wait for the team to hit the road before he puts him back in there. He’s been a different goalie on the road posting a 1.86 GAA and a .929 save% in four games.
Make no mistake, the Blues season got off track once Jaro Halak went down with a groin injury and Elliott lost his confidence.
After taking a mental rehab, Elliott will play his first game since February 11th. He’s lost each of his last four starts which saw him get pulled once and carry a .790 save%.
I’ve spoken to Elliott several times over the past week and he seems anxious to get back in there. After losing playing time to Peoria goaltender Jake Allen, he’s had plenty of time to mentally prepare for his next start.
Elliott was arguably the story of the year last season in the NHL, how will his story be written this season?
GM Doug Armstrong told me yesterday that the team will continue to evaluate the injuries to Vlad Tarasenko, Andy McDonald, and Alex Steen on a week to week basis.
Steen was considered day to day but obviously the injury might sideline him longer than the team originally thought.
McDonald who is doing some light skating is still nursing a knee injury. Usually these injuries take 2-4 weeks to recover and I wouldn’t expect that to change.
As we know it’s hard to put a timeframe on a head injury, therefore we won’t speculate as to when Tarasenko is ready to play again.
Decision time looming….
GM Doug Armstrong has some difficult decisions to make over the next few weeks. Do you trade pieces you know you won’t be bringing back next season? Or do you hang onto them knowing they strengthen your team come playoff time?
It’s safe to say the Blues will re-sign D-men Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. The same can maybe be said with Kris Russell.
Then you have forwards Patrik Berglund, Chris Stewart, Matt D’agostini and Andy McDonald.
The Blues are a better team with these guys on the roster but if they don’t think they can keep them they'll be exploring their options. Allowing assets to leave without getting anything in return can get a little dicey.
Stewart does have arbitration rights and the Blues could always try to squeeze another one or two year deal out of him.
When Tarasenko, McDoanld, and Steen return to the lineup could impact these decisions come trade deadline time.
The Blues came into the season with heavy internal expectations and it’s safe to assume they have a plan in place.
I’ll have more on this later.
More to come,
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