Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak were the cornerstones for the St. Louis Blues last season, when, for the first time since 2002, they made it to the second round of the NHL playoffs. Elliott and Halak combined to win the Jennings Trophy last season as the best goalie tandem in the NHL. Elliott posted a 23-10-4 record; while Halak went 26-12-7. Elliott also led the NHL in GAA (1.56), save % (.940), and was second in shutouts (9).
Needless to say, coming into this season goaltending was not a major concern for the Blues. But as the Canucks faithful know, a team’s goalie situation can change very quickly.
This season, Halak has been plagued with groin issues and Elliott’s play has declined dramatically. The latter is winless in his last 6 starts going 0-5-1 and allowing 24 goals in that span.
Enter rookie Jake Allen.
Allen has been sensational for the Blues. In just his first NHL season (though he did play about a minute of game 2 of the Blues’ second round playoff series last season against the Kings), he has an 8-1-0 record and is in the top-10 in the NHL in GAA (2.18) and save % (.920). He has not allowed more than 3 goals in any of his starts. (Remember the good old days of less than 3 goals against, Canucks fans?)
Allen’s stellar play probably shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Canadian fans might remember that he was a part of Team Canada when they won the gold medal in the 2008 U-18 World Hockey Championship. Allen went 6-1-0 in that tournament, and was named tournament MVP and its top goaltender. He was also a part of Team Canada when they won the silver medal in the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championship in Saskatoon; he posted a 4-0-0 record in that tournament.
The Blues come to Vancouver for the two teams’ second meeting of the season. In their first meeting back in February, the Canucks blew a 2-1 first period lead and eventually lost 4-3 in a shootout. Mason Raymond tied up the game with less than 2 minutes remaining in the third period to help earn the Canucks a point.
After a brief lull, the Blues are rolling again with 5 wins in their last 6 games. On the other hand, the Canucks are in a tailspin. After blowing yet another lead in last night’s 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Canucks have just 3 wins in their last 11 games.
Cory Schneider should get the start in goal for the Canucks tonight.
13-9-6, 32 points (2nd in Northwest Division, 7th in Western Conference)
Chris Stewart is an impending UFA next season and is making every effort to boost his value in the open market. Through 28 games, Stewart leads the Blues in goals (14) and points (28). He’s currently on a tear with an active 3-game point streak (5G-2A-7P) and 15 points in his last 10 games.
David Peron has just 1 goal in his last 5 games.