Coming off of a 3-game road trip and 4-game losing streak, the Blue Jackets needed a win in a bad way. Enter Curtis McElhinney for a spot start to relieve Sergei Bobrovsky for a night. Sunday’s game was the first of a 4-game home stand and the Jackets needed to right the ship, and they certainly did. McElhinney’s performance was nothing short of spectacular for Todd Richards and the Blue Jackets.
Who is Curtis McElhinney?
Well first of all, let’s all say it together: “Mack – el – hinney.” McElhinney. The oft-mispronounced name was one that we should get used to hearing in Columbus. Maybe not on a consistent basis just yet, but the Jackets have something in their backup goalie – something they desparately needed after signing Bob in the off-season.
McElhinney played college hockey in the NCAA at Colorado College, and has played in the NHL before, having made his debut in the 2007-08 season with the Calgary Flames. He would then play with the Ducks, Senators and Coyotes before coming to the Blue Jackets franchise. Overall, the 30-year old had played in 69 NHL games coming into the season, with a record of 19-26-6. Last year, McElhinney backstopped the AHL’s Springfield Falcons to a division championship and 2nd overall seed in the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs, although Springfield was bounced in the second round.
This year, it was clear that McElhinney would be the backup in Columbus after a few events saw goalies come and go in quick succession. To start things off, the Jackets traded Steve Mason to Philadelphia for Michael Leighton and a 3rd round pick in 2015. Bobrovsky would then go on to win the 2013 Vezina Trophy and inked a big contract with the team in the off season.
But long gone are the days where a goalie plays 70+ games. Bobrovsky can’t play every night, and one of the more under-appreciated positions in the NHL is that of the backup goalie. Enter McElhinney. The Jackets played 3 games in 4 nights, ending last night, and Bobrovsky had played in the Jackets’ first 7 games and needed a rest.
What the Team Has to Say
Head Coach Todd Richards:
Somebody asked me this morning and really I didn’t have any concerns. His practices were very good and he had a good training camp. He’s been through it. He’s a pro.
Ryan Johansen, who scored an empty netter and assisted on the game winner on Sunday:
I got to play with him throughout the lockout last year and I know what he can bring to our team. He showed all of you and the fans AND the NHL.
Many other players were quoted after the game saying that Curtis was on fire and stole the game for the Jackets. This save in particular was one they were all raving about. The Canucks had pulled their goalie and could have tied the game on this play in front of the net with about 40 seconds left. The funny thing is that the entire stadium was on their feet cheering and it seems that many didn’t see how close this was to being a tie game, as there was no roar from the crowd at the time of the play.
A Big Win
In the game, Curtis McElhinney earned first NHL win since December 31, 2011 as a Coyote, and it comes at a pivotal moment for Columbus. The Jackets had yet to win on home ice this season, having lost to Calgary and Boston before last night. The game was the first in a 4-game set at home, and the Jackets play 8 of the next 9 at home overall. All but one of those 9 games (tomorrow’s against New Jersey) is against a playoff team from a year ago.
The win brings the Blue Jackets to 3-5-0 on the season. Expect to see Bobrovsky in net again on Tuesday, but Curtis McElhinney has certainly proven that he is worthy of more play when he is needed. It’s a good problem to have if you have a backup goalie who can carry games and get some wins.
Doulas Cutler is a Lead Writer for The Hockey Writers covering the Chicago Blackhawks. Follow him on Twitter at @DougCutlerTHW. In addition, he also writes on The Blog of Brotherhood, dedicated to Miami RedHawks Hockey (www.blogofbrotherhood.com and @MiamiHockeyBlog). LET’S GO HAWKS!