It may only be four games into the season, but the play of Jaroslav Halak has the St. Louis Blues sitting fourth in the Western Conference. Halak may once again take home the William M. Jennings Trophy with Brian Elliott, and if his play continues a this level should be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as well.
Halak blanked the Detroit Red Wings in the season opener, had a bad night and got pulled against the Nashville Predators, then turned around a few days later and shut out those same Predators. That’s right, two shutouts, and both against Central Division rivals. Even with Elliott taking a 3-2 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks, the tandem still sits fifth (Halak – 1.18) and tenth (Elliott – 1.98) in goals against average. Most teams would be happy with one netminder on the league leaders board, but for the second straight season the Blues have two.
The best part is that once again Halak and Elliott are taking care of business quietly. Most of the Blues’ storylines this season have focused on Russian rookie stud Vladimir Tarasenko or the team’s league-best power play. Granted, the pair hasn’t faced many shots – in three appearances Halak has turned aside 35 of 38 and in two appearances Elliott has stopped 37 of 40. Isn’t that what separates the good goalies from the great ones, though? The ability to make the big saves, even when only facing 10-20 shots for the game is what is making Halak a perennial Vezina favorite, and what will make the Blues incredibly dangerous in this short season.
Next, the Blues will travel to Texas to play the Dallas Stars on Saturday. The Stars, at 2-1-1, will be another great test for the St. Louis goaltenders. It will likely be the first appearance of the season for the Stars’ Jamie Benn, and between him, Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney and Loui Eriksson, expect Halak or Elliott to see more shots than they have faced so far this season.