Was the Blues’ Goaltending a Fluke?
Last season, the St. Louis Blues had two of the hottest goaltenders in the league, but can they keep it up, this season?
Of course, if there is a season.
Last year, the Blues exploded onto the ice with an unexpected and mind blowing performance. They made minced meat out of their opponents, and proved they were indeed dangerous; something St. Louis hasn’t been for over a decade.
They ended the regular season with 109 points, taking the Division crown, and the overall number 2 seed in the Western Conference. They lacked offensive ability, but had very solid defense; however, goaltending was the real secret to their success.
At the beginning of the year, nobody knew who would be starting goalie. Halak was hot and cold all of 2010-2011, and Elliott was brand new, being picked up in the offseason for the cheap price of 500K. Halak won the gig, but struggled through the first couple of weeks. In seven starts, he had a 3.35 goals against average and a .856 save percentage. Elliott, on the other hand, put up awesome numbers – 1.57 and .924, respectively.
When Ken Hitchcock took over as head coach on November 6th, he didn’t do the logical thing, and play Elliott the rest of the season, he gave Halak a chance to redeem himself. And redeem himself he did.
At the end of it all, Halak and Elliot had GAAs of 1.97 and 1.56, and SV%s of .926 and .940, respectively. Combined, that’s .932 and 1.78; good enough for the NHL’s Jennings Trophy, which is given to the season’s best goaltending duo.
Heck, Elliott had the 19th best single-season goals against average of all time, and only 20 players total have ever gotten below the 1.60 mark! All were from pre-expansion, by the way. All except Elliott.
Halak’s numbers were good enough for 77th on the all time list.
But numbers like these are amazingly rare, and with other goaltenders playing nearly as good (Schneider, Rinne, Lundquist, Quick), it’ll be tough to be the best again.
So, to answer my own question; no, I don’t think the Blues’ goaltending was a fluke. Both goalies played exceptionally well, and it was more of a “right place at the right time” kind of situation. The Blues were fortunate to have hot goalies, with some of the best numbers out there. But so were Vancouver, Nashville, New York, and L.A.
I expect Halak and Elliott to play very well again, but it’s highly unlikely they can put up the numbers they did last season.