It was a bad night for Blues goalie Brian Elliott, yanked after allowing three goals—against just four saves—in the first period of Dallas’s 3-2 win. Bad nights happen. But is there really a chance that Elliott was so out of sorts that Jake Allen will get the nod in Wednesday’s Game 7? Ken Hitchcock wants the Stars to think so, at least.
Coach, who’s going to start?
“I want to sleep on what I’m going to do. I’ll let you know on the game day.”
Ominous. And curious, considering how well Elliott has played this year and through the playoffs. And even last night’s disaster was as much the fault of the skaters in front of him as it was Elliott’s.
Mattias Janmark scored the first for the Stars, set up by a nice long feed for a partial breakaway, and he beat Elliott high and to the glove side.
Dallas’s second came after Elliott failed to clear the puck, and wasn’t able to react in time to Vernon Fiddler’s redirect.
Elliott was finally chased from the game by Jason Spezza’s power-play goal, a really nifty toe drag into the slot to set up another high glove-side shot.
So, none of the three goals were egregiously bad, though you might like Elliott to make a play on the first and third, neither of which were screened or redirected. Maybe more worrisome is that he was beaten high all three times. But that could easily be a function of genuinely well-placed shots more than a reflection of the Stars having “figured out” Elliott.
Hitchcock said his decision to pull Elliott there wasn’t an indictment of his goalie.
“You are doing something to help the team,” Hitchcock said. “This isn’t a reflection on Brian. This is something to help the team. He has carried us. He’s been doing this thing for two months now. The guy has had a hell of a March, a hell of an April and a hell of a May.”
There wouldn’t seem to be a question about St. Louis’s Game 7 starter if this weren’t Ken Hitchcock we’re talking about. He has a track record of switching up goalies, and especially of going away from Elliott. It was Allen who got the postseason nod last year, despite Elliott having slightly better regular season stats, and Elliott wasn’t named this year’s starter until just before the playoffs—and that because Allen was out with an injury.
But Elliott’s numbers have been indisputably better this season than Allen’s, and Hitchcock wasn’t phased after Elliott had a bad Game 6 against Chicago, immediately announcing his intention to give him Game 7. So why not give that instant vote of confidence this time?
Smart money says this series is Elliott’s, and Hitchcock knows it, and this is just to throw the slightest hint of doubt into the Stars’ minds (especially if they’re now thinking to shoot at Elliott’s left shoulder). But then, smart money stays away from pretending to know Ken Hitchcock’s mind on goalie decisions.