The St. Louis Blues have taken a 2-1 series advantage after winning in Chicago yesterday afternoon, 3-2. A late power-play goal by Jaden Schwartz lifted them to victory on the road, but the play of goaltender Brian Elliott has been the biggest factor in St. Louis’ success.
Among the League Leaders
Elliott has started in all three match-ups thus far for the Blues, winning one at home and one on the road. In those, he’s managed a .963 save percentage and a goals-against average of 1.28, both good enough for second in the playoffs.
Considering his involvement in more evenly distributed scoring games, his positioning is rather impressive. Elliott is St. Louis’ go-to in net right now and he’s more than capable of playing with some of the best goaltenders in the league.
His confidence is something that will allow him to remain among the best and could potentially be a reason he finds himself as the best goaltender in the playoffs.
Elliott Deserves More Support
Despite leading his team to a 2-1 series lead over the defending champions, Elliott isn’t receiving the kind of offensive support he deserves.
The Blues have scored six goals in their opening three games of Rd. 1, but have had numerous opportunities to cash in. They’re going to need more scoring from throughout the lineup if they want to fully give Elliott the offensive production his play deserves.
That means, simply, that St. Louis needs to focus more on shooting and less on the physical side of the game. Yes, they have an intense rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks that is one of the best in hockey today, but they shouldn’t compromise scoring opportunities to land the perfect hit.
St. Louis can’t continue taking more penalties than Chicago if they want their journey to Rd. 2 to be easier. They took five minors in Game 1, three in Game 2 and four in Game 3, giving the Hawks a total of four more man advantages in the series thus far.
The Blues’ penalty kill has been able to kill all but two of those penalties, but they are certainly momentum changers and can absolutely be the difference in a game.
Sometimes, as hard as it may be, it’s more helpful to play a simple game than one that is high tempo. Especially considering the immense talent the Hawks have and use seemingly every postseason.
When it comes down to it, the Blues are two wins away from eliminating the defending champs in the first round. They have the ability to do so with help from Elliott’s solid goaltending and the skaters’ more disciplined play.
The combination of those two components of St. Louis’ play will more than likely lead to a successful exit of the first round and a ticket to the second to take on either the Dallas Stars or the Minnesota Wild.
Has Elliott’s play been surprising to you? Do you think the Blues will continue to play him until he falters or will Jake Allen get a start in Rd. 1? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.