While he got some help from the goalposts near the end of Game 7, there was no doubt that goaltender Brian Elliott was a huge reason the St. Louis Blues beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
The same Brian Elliott that spent previous playoff seasons on the bench watching Jaroslav Halak, Ryan Miller and Jake Allen handle the team’s playoff starts was finally the man in charge.
“He’s capable of coming on the big stage,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of Elliott, who will be back in net Friday for Game 1 of the second-round playoff series against the Dallas Stars. “That’s a lot of pressure for a goalie. Since Day One I’ve said it, he’s been our hardest worker and he continues to be the hardest worker, day in day out, on and off the ice.
“He’s deserving everything he’s getting.”
What he’s getting is a second chance.
After turning in a 23-8-6 record during the regular season that included a 2.07 goals-against average (second best in the NHL) and league-leading .930 save percentage, Elliott was just as sharp in the playoffs.
He collected his first playoff shutout in the Blues’ Game 1 overtime victory over Chicago, then had a record 44 saves in the Game 3 win. The Blackhawks had 18 goals on 254 shots (the most faced by any playoff goalie in Round 1) and Elliott and his teammates help the high-scoring duo of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to a combined one goal.
He’s capable of coming on the big stage. That’s a lot of pressure for a goalie. Since Day One I’ve said it, he’s been our hardest worker and he continues to be the hardest worker, day in day out, on and off the ice.
Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo on Brian Elliott
So when Brent Seabrook’s shot clanged off both goalposts late in Game 7 and was sitting in dangerous territory behind Elliott with another Chicago player read to pounce on the rebound, Pietrangelo was more than happy to help his goaltender.
“I said to Moose (Elliott), he’s been so good to us all series, that was one way to bail him out,” Pietrangelo said. “He’s done more than that to me than me helping him on that one.”
Up for the challenge
Is Elliott for another pressure-packed playoff series, one that can send the Blues into the Western Conference finals?
He said one big difference is the confidence and knowledge gained through being on the ice for an entire playoff series. The Blues were counting heavily on Elliott and he delivered.
“I think you soak it in through osmosis,” said the 31-year-old goaltender known as “Moose” to teammates and fans. “It’s not kind of stuff you can write down, it’s those feelings, it’s those rising to the occasions. I think we had a lot of guys do that.
“(Rookie Colton) Parayko, his goal in the first period (of Game 7) was huge for a young guy to come through like that and have a booming shot from the point. That’s just one example of the feeling that in big games you can come up big and play your best.”
I think you soak it in through osmosis. It’s not kind of stuff you can write down, it’s those feelings, it’s those rising to the occasions.
Brian Elliott on what’s helped him become a better playoff goalie
Elliott got the starting job with a 13-2-1 stretch to close out the season, but Allen’s injury made him the No. 1 for sure. Allen is back now, but the Blues are ready to climb onto Elliott’s back for another series.
Allen has a 10-13 record while appearing in 26 career playoff games, but everyone around him senses something different.
“He’s a good story because it’s kind of a microcosm of his career,” Blues captain David Backes said. “He does all the right things: he works his butt off, he comes every day prepared and he’s willing to go above and beyond the normal level of work to find his opportunity, to be prepared when he does get that chance.”
Elliott has displayed a sense of confidence that his teammates are thriving on.
“Now he’s laser-focused,” Backes said. “He’s as focused as I’ve ever seen him, efficient in his movements, efficient in his time that he’s spending on the ice on practice days. He’s been phenomenal for us and he’s earned it.
“Now he’s grabbed it by the reins and he’s running with it and you love seeing that.”
The Elliott Blues fans are seeing now is a product of many seasons in the NHL.
“You talk a lot about experience with goaltending and how obviously it matters,” he said. “It takes a little bit more time to develop ... it’s every situation you go through builds how you approach every game. You have to trust that and trust that whatever happens, you’ll be OK.”
Like his teammates Elliott realized he had to park the emotional first-round playoff win over the Blackhawks and move on to the next big challenge. In this case, the high-powered offense of the Dallas Stars.
“You have to. It doesn’t really mean anything any more,” Elliott said. “This is what it’s all about, it’s about this next game on the road and trying to play our Blues style road hockey and get that first one out of the way.
“It will be fun. We overcame a big team, now we have another one right up to bat next. That’s what it’s all about.”