Call it a good problem to have.
The third-best team in the NHL this season, the St. Louis Blues, have the luxury of two goaltenders giving them quality starts. Jake Allen won the starting role early and ran with it, playing to a record of 24-14-3 with a 2.42 GAA and .918 save percentage.
But an injury to Allen kept him out for six weeks and Brian Elliott filled in admirably — remarkably, in fact. This season, he’s gone 19-7-6 with a 2.01 GAA and a .933 save percentage. When Elliott went down with an injury of his own on Feb. 22, Allen returned to the crease but faltered last week in two losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
Since then, Elliott has two straight shutouts and will start Friday against the Vancouver Canucks.
So who starts in the playoffs?
Last season saw Allen snag the job to underwhelming results. In 2012, Jaro Halak got the call over Elliott who would man the bench once more in 2014 when the Blues acquired Ryan Miller.
Kevin Woodley of NHL.com took a closer look at the Blues’ goaltending tandem, perhaps making the case for Elliott whose equipment and mask alterations this year have him resembling Blues alumni Curtis Joseph.
“I am not even thinking about it until the end here, and then I’m not sure, maybe we have to go with two guys,” head coach Ken Hitchcock told Woodley. “We’ll just make the judgment when the season is over and then we’ll declare a guy.”
The differences between the two goalies gives the Blues variety in how they approach their game.
“Jake is more active in net; Brian is more conservative, both with the puck and in playing,” said Hitchcock. “Brian plays closer to the goal line. Jake plays closer to the edge, but they are both competitive as [heck], which fuels their camaraderie.
“[Both goalies are] different, but our defence knows going in what we are going to do on [zone] exits depending on the goalie.”
One thing is certain, that both netminders have played for long spells, giving the coach some reliable information on how each responds to the challenge of the starting role.
“We’ve played 10 games one guy, 10 games the other,” said Hitchcock. “It’s not like they’ve alternated back and forth. I think we can make this adjustment easy now because we’ve played extended minutes with each guy.”