There were 11 games this season when not only did Brian Elliott fail to play goal for the St. Louis Blues, he wasn't even the backup and sat out as a healthy lineup scratch.
Blues fans didn't mind at the time with Elliott struggling and rookie goalie Jake Allen picking up the slack when starter Jaroslav Halak went down with the first of two injuries.
Elliott -- who went from Jan. 31 to March 31 without celebrating a victory -- didn't complain. He didn't sulk or pop off to the media.
At one point, the veteran goaltender willingly accepted a conditioning assignment to the minors in the hopes of shaking off some rust.
During a two-game stint with the Peoria Rivermen, he fought to regain the mechanics and form that helped him post nine shutouts and lead the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage last season.
When Halak was injured again, it left Elliott and Allen in net and some wondering how the duo would fare under the intense glare of a playoff race.
Given another shot as the starter with a lot on the line, Elliott has flourished so far and has been stronger than he has at any point this season.
Tuesday marked his second straight 1-0 road shutout as the Blues blanked the Nashville Predators. That came on the heels of a 1-0 victory Sunday at Detroit that saw Elliott turn away all 28 shots. He has not allowed a goal in his last 124 minutes, 29 seconds, following up a six-game winless stretch with four consecutive victories.
The Blues have won a season-high five straight games and Elliott has a personal four-game winning streak heading into Friday's game at Minnesota.
During those four wins, he has stopped 95 of 99 shots with two shutouts.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Blues are only the third team in NHL history to post back-to-back 1-0 shutouts on the road. They also showed more grit by winning four of the five games on the road
What's changed with Elliott, besides stopping more pucks? He seems to be more sure of himself and also is allowing fewer long rebounds, which often lead to golden scoring opportunities.
But another important part of his turnaround -- and that of the Blues -- has to do with the two new veteran defensemen playing in front of him.
The Blues are 5-0 since the arrival of Jordan Leopold and 4-0 since Jay Bouwmeester joined the team in a trade with the Calgary Flames.
The fact the Blues acquired two frontline defensemen without giving up a starting roster player -- it cost them prospects and draft picks -- says a lot about General Manager Doug Armstrong's creativity.
Bouwmeester has long been regarded as one of the league's best and fastest skaters. His ability to get the puck out of immediate danger has made an immediate impact.
He also has played just under 24 minutes a game on the top defense pairing with Alex Pietrangelo, an important slot the Blues have been trying to fill all season.
Adding three assists in his first four games was nice, but Bouwmeester's presence -- and that of Leopold --has also created an overall settling influence on the defense corps.
It also gave the Blues some of the strongest defense depth in the NHL since Barret Jackman and Roman Polak now are being utilized on the third defense pairing.
With just 10 games remaining, the Blues (22-14-2) began Wednesday just two points behind fourth-place Los Angeles in the Western Conference standings.
Since catching Central Division leader Chicago is out of reach, the No. 4 playoff seed is the best the Blues can hope for, since the top three spots go to division leaders.
Elliott and the Blues still have a lot to prove and the team has to continue to look for ways to improve its once solid power-play unit.
But the defense and goaltending -- two important pieces to any NHL playoff puzzle -- appear to be functioning at an extremely high level at exactly the right time.