When the St. Louis Blues find themselves hitting a skid, there’s only one lineup change that needs to be made.
Brian Elliott has been the answer to ending a bad stretch since arriving on the scene in 2011 as he is constantly found bailing his teammates out when it’s most needed. It counts all the way back to his first game in the blue and yellow.
After the Blues begun the 2011-12 season with a 1-2-0 record (and starter Jaroslav Halak compiling a .857 save percentage), Elliott got the call for his first start of the season Oct. 15 in San Jose. He dazzled the Blues brass, recording 34 saves on 36 shots en route to a 4-2 victory. His first monster save as a Blue came with under five minutes remaining in the third period against Dan Boyle to maintain a 3-2 Blues lead.
Elliott begun the season 10-1-0, sparking a goalie controversy that continues to this day. He earned All-Star Game accolades for the first time in his career and stood out as a top goaltender throughout the season.
He began the best stretch of his career on March 22, 2012, while the Blues were in the midst of a race for first overall in the NHL. With his team going 1-2-1 in the past four contests, Elliott posted a 37-save shutout in a 1-0 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings. The donuts continued through two more games before the Detroit Red Wings tallied a goal late in the third period on April 4. The shutout streak lasted a club-record 241 minutes, 33 seconds.
Elliott was forced to step in again after Halak suffered an injury in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against the Sharks. He went undefeated in the series to win the franchise its first playoff series since 2002 before losing four straight games in the semifinals to the Kings.
Elliott faced a tough start to 2012-13, warranting a demotion to the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL on a conditioning assignment. Just when it looked like his carriage had finally turned back into a pumpkin, the goalie returned to St. Louis with a vengeance.
Entering April in eighth place and just one point ahead of ninth-place Dallas, the Blues received stellar goaltending when they needed it most. Taking over as the starter for the injured Halak, Elliott went on a miraculous 11-2-0 run to close out the season. His 1.28 GAA, .948 save percentage and three shutouts earned him the Second Star of the Month and led the Blues to a fourth-place finish in the Western Conference.
Is Elliott back to his old tricks?
Although his performance prior was not so impressive (four goals against on 12 shots in the Blues’ 6-3 loss to the Sharks on Nov. 29), the 28-year old netminder was expected to turn the tides yet again on Tuesday. St. Louis had hit its first snag of an otherwise remarkable season, losing three of the previous four games.
Elliott, who also appeared in relief for Halak on Saturday with 13 saves in a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, took the crease on the road against the Winnipeg Jets and faced his biggest challenges early. The Blues were outscored 9-1 in the first period of their previous four games and Tuesday was shaping up to be more of the same. Elliott answered the bell, though, stopping all eight shots he faced. His best save of the night came at 14:21 of the third period when Dustin Byfuglien sniped a shot from the left faceoff circle.
Alex Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk scored while Elliott stopped 20 of 21 shots and the Blues left Winnipeg with a 2-1 victory.
The team will next head home to welcome in the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. Elliott is the likely starter and he will look to build on the momentum gathered in the victory against the Jets.
If Elliott has anything to say about it, the skid will be a distant memory.