Elliot Returning to Ottawa With Vezina Talk in Tow
Looking back to the start of the season, if you were to ask any hockey expert who the starting goalie of the St. Louis Blues would be, they would not have said Brian Elliot. If you asked any of those same experts whose numbers which goaltender would be represented by a 1.69 G.A.A, a .938 save percentage and five shutouts at the All-Star break, they would not have guessed Brian Elliot. Or even better, if you asked those same questions to the Sens Army they would not have responded with Brian Elliot.
However, if you were to ask Brian Elliot himself what he thought going into his first season with the St. Louis Blues, he would tell you that “... if you have an opportunity, you take it and try and run with it” (St. Louis Blues Online).
Coming into the start of the 2011/2012 season, Elliot could have taken two different roads. He could play out his year, content with the backup position behind thought to be starter Jaroslav Halak, and settle for being a $600 000 backup goalie. Or he could come in, work hard, capitalize on Halak's misfortunes early in the season, get invited to the NHL All Star Game in Ottawa, all while staying in the top three of the league in save percentage, goals against average, and shutouts.
Elliot and the Blues will Return to Scotiabank Place in Ottawa Tuesday
As we all know, Elliot decided to take the second option, and has become the feel good story of the year, capped off when the Blues rewarded him for his solid play with a two-year contract extension that will pay him an average of $1.8 million per year.
Looking ahead, there is no reason to doubt Elliot’s play. With Halak's game back on track, the Blues are turning in solid goaltending night in and night out, with what could be considered the best goalie tandem in the league. Elliot is comfortable in the net, and can split games with Halak (which gives coach Hitchcock the ability to play either goalie in the best situations). He finally has a secure contract to work with and no expectations of being the permanent number one.
Having both Elliot and Halak protecting the Blues’ net for the next two years allows for both of them to be comfortable in their positions. This becomes a very different situation than what Elliot has been used to in his previous years. Although you would have to think that, eventually, with the recent strong play of Halak, Elliot will slowly drift into the more cemented back-up role. But even so, that was the supposed case at the start of the year and only time will tell on the direction they will both take.
Although it has not been announced on which tender will get the start in between the pipes when the Blues continue the four game road trip in Ottawa tomorrow, it would be nice to see Elliot manning the mesh. This would be Elliot's first chance to play in Ottawa since being traded by them to the Avalanche just before the trade deadline of last year. Coach Hitchcock has to be putting that into consideration, and the fact that Halak has played two straight with the last one coming in a 3 – 1 loss. That would certainly be a real nice gesture to Elliot for all the help he has given the Blues in the net this season.
Although Elliot may get the start in Ottawa, do not get too hung up on the fact that he and Halak may be splitting games. It all depends on how Hitchcock feels about his goalie situation. Both have done wonders this season but is it time to lean on Halak, and the number one spot he was going to be given at the start of the season. I think eventually it will come down to that, but for tonight, on Elliot's true return to Ottawa (not counting the All Star Game), the start should be given to him. Who wouldn’t want to steal the show in the same team's building that traded you away, even though I am sure no hard feelings are felt.
No matter what the situation is it looks as if Elliot has found a nice niche for himself in the St. Louis crease this year. While saying that Elliot is the clear frontrunner for the Vezina trophy may be a stretch, he does in fact deserve to be given consideration up too this point. All signs point for Elliot to continue providing the Blues with solid goaltending in the crease, and like Elliot said before, “... if you have an opportunity, you take it and try and run with it”.
For Elliot, if the first half of the season can show where running with opportunity can take him, then the Vezina talk should follow him into every rink he arrives in.