When it comes to the NHL, there are patterns everywhere.
Every NHL team seems to follow a pattern every season. Every head coach has a pattern when it comes to constructing his club’s lineups and every good organization in the league has a pattern that they follow to success each season, whether it is the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks, and so on and so forth.
This season, there is an NHL goaltender that is following a very unfortunate pattern. This particular pattern was established during the 2009-10 season and it goes one good, one bad, one good and now, one bad.
The aforementioned netminder is St. Louis Blues’ masked man Brian Elliott. To say that Elliott’s NHL career has been up and down would be an understatement.
When given the opportunity to be a starting goaltender with the Ottawa Senators during the 2009-10 season, Elliott did not disappoint. That year, Elliott went 29-18-4 with a 2.57 GAA, a .909 save percentage and five shutouts.
Elliott’s strong play helped earn him the NHL Rookie of the Month Award for March 2009 as well as helping him get the Senators into the postseason as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Elliott and the Senators would lose to the fourth-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round in six games.
In that postseason, Elliott struggled mightily against the Penguins. His GAA was over 3.5 and he stopped just 85 per cent of the shots he faced.
Elliott’s poor play in the 2010 postseason seemed to carry over into the following regular season. That season, which was split between the Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche, was an absolute nightmarish year for Elliott.
With the Senators, Elliott was 13-19-8 with a 3.19 GAA, a .894 save percentage and three shutouts. When Elliott was traded to the Avalanche, he did not do much better as he went just 2-8-1 with a 3.83 GAA and a .891 save percentage.
That off-season, Elliott signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Blues to backup Jaroslav Halak. Last season turned out to be Elliott’s best.
In 38 games, Elliott won 23 games, posted a career low GAA of 1.56, had a career high .940 save percentage (NHL record for highest save percentage with at least 25 games played) and picked up nine shutouts. For his strong play, Elliott was named to his first NHL All-Star Game, shared the William M. Jennings Trophy with Halak for fewest goals allowed in the regular season and also won the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award for having the highest save percentage in the league.
Like the 2010 postseason, however, Elliott struggled in the playoffs with the Blues. While he was terrific against the San Jose Sharks in helping the Blues dispatch of the Sharks in six games, he struggled against the Los Angeles Kings and finished 3-4 with a 2.37 GAA and a .904 save percentage.
It appears that once again, Elliott has carried his struggles from the postseason into the regular season. As of this writing, Elliott is off to a horrible start this year as he is 3-5-1 with a 3.57 GAA and a .849 save percentage.
Elliott seems to be fighting the puck, not being in the right position for certain shots that come his way and looks like the goaltender that struggled with both the Senators and the Avalanche in the 2010-11 season. St. Louis Blues’ head coach Ken Hitchcock thinks that Elliott’s struggles could be mental as well, which is what he explained to Norm Sanders of the News-Democrat.
“Before he came up to back up, he was playing the best hockey he’s ever played in his life so we can’t discount that,” said Hitchcock, who plans to talk to goalies coach Corey Hirsch as well as his netminders before making the decision. “Brian struggled; sometimes a mental break for Brian might work, too.”
While Hitchcock is more than likely right when it comes to knowing what might be wrong with Elliott, it could also be a strange pattern that Elliott seems to follow unknowingly. He has been through something like this before so it may not be in the cards for him to play well this season.
There is no doubt that Blues’ fans should be disappointed in Elliott’s subpar play but it simply might just be a matter of habit for Elliott and is a pattern that finds him one year and misses him the next.