Many cities in the NHL are known as “goalie graveyards” — those places where a goalie’s career goes to die — at the very least making people question the player’s previous status and reputation. St. Louis, despite the generally favorable reception players get for hard work and team ethic, has had a love/hate relationship with many of their goalies. Much of what makes Blues fans consider a goalie “great” while wearing the Note involve equal parts success and lack of blame for short-circuiting a potential Cup team. But lost in the discussion of “best goalies” is sometimes who that player partnered with — without whom team success would have suffered.
The best goalies in Blues history are often mentioned among the NHL’s elite
1. Glenn Hall/Jacques Plante
Blues fans were blessed with two top-flight goalies from day one of their existence. The dynamic duo of Hall and Plante was instrumental in leading the fledgling Blues to three consecutive Cup Final appearances, although each time the team was ousted by powerhouses Montreal and Boston. Regardless, many consider this tandem to comprise the best the NHL has ever seen, the equivalent of pairing Jonathan Quick with Henrik Lundqvist today. Notably, when the duo shared the Vezina Trophy, both were in the twilight of their careers, a testament to their abilities and love of the game.
2. Jaroslav Halak/Brian Elliott
Immediately after the Blues’ rebuild was complete and they began to reassert themselves as Cup contenders, fans were rewarded with watching two of the best in the league team up to form one of the more solid tandems the League has ever seen. Although the team once again fizzled out in the postseason, in 2012 they won the Jennings Trophy, awarded to the team featuring the lowest goals against average. The duo was split up around the 2014 trade deadline, with Jaroslav Halak getting dealt to Buffalo in the infamous Ryan Miller deal. Halak was never able to regain his 2009 playoff form, shelved by injuries in both postseason appearances with the team.
3. Curtis Joseph/Guy Hebert
By the time Curtis Joseph was firmly installed as the Blues’ number one, the only question was who would play the other ten games of the regular season. In 1993, Guy Hebert moved up from the Peoria Rivermen, giving Joseph the first near-1A partner the franchise saw since Rick Wamsley and Greg Millen manned the nets in the mid-1980s. Although Hebert’s worth wasn’t obvious to the League until he established himself as Anaheim’s All-Star, Hebert was instrumental in extending the 1993 playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs after Joseph was knocked out by a Mike Foligno roundhouse kick. Although neither won any major NHL awards, both were nominated multiple times for the Vezina, with Joseph receiving Conn Smythe discussion during his stellar 1993 playoff run.
4. Roman Turek/Brent Johnson
Mentioning Roman Turek’s name among many Blues fans immediately evokes images of the infamous Owen Nolan center-ice goal, part of a chain of events leading to the 1999 President’s Trophy-winning Blues to be bounced unexpectedly from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, the numbers he and partner Brent Johnson put up during the subsequent regular season rank among the best of any in the team’s history. Together, Turek and Johnson put up a 2.22 GAA mark with a .904 save percentage, solid numbers on a powerhouse squad. The duo led the Blues to the Western Conference Finals that year, where they ran into legend Patrick Roy. Brent, the son of “Badger” Bob Johnson, eventually formed a less-illustrious tandem with Fred Braithwaite the following season. However, Johnson posted three consecutive shutouts of the Chicago Blackhawks as the Blues swept them in the first round in 2002. By 2003-2004 and with Turek long gone, Johnson played only 10 games as Chris Osgood took over for one year.
5. Mike Liut/Ed Staniowski
Mike Liut, a a winner of the Pearson award in 1980 as the NHL’s best player as selected by his peers, would likely be considered among the NHL’s all-time greats had he played in New York or Montreal rather than St. Louis and Hartford. In 1980-1981, the First Team All-Star and partner Ed Staniowski led a strong Blues team with a combined 43 wins, with Liut garnering Hart consideration for his efforts. Even in the twilight of his career with the Whalers and Capitals, Liut was among the league leaders in goals-against average, indicating his glory years with the Blues were not a fluke. Ironically, Liut today is the agent for Ryan Miller, a player that will forever live on the opposite side of the storied goaltender in the hearts and minds of Blues fans everywhere.
Looking to the future
Expectations are high for the upcoming Blues tandem of Brian Elliott and Jake Allen, the latter recently winning top AHL goalie honors. Both have earned their place in the League, with Elliott’s 16 shutouts in a Blues sweater leading the way. Allen is expected to play perhaps 20 games this year, with potential to split starts if Elliott falters or Allen shines. Regardless, if all goes according to plan, the Blues appear to be set for the forseeable future with young and talented goaltending, shoring up what many believe the final pieces to a long-awaited Cup parade.