No goalie decision has been reached yet by St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who talked Monday about factoring in past experience and a “hot hand” when making the call between Jake Allen and Brian Elliott for Thursday’s playoff opener.
“The hot hand for me in the playoffs ... I think you’ve got to really base it on who played well against the opposition,” Hitchcock said. “I think that’s significant. Some goalies are set up for different types of opposition. Ells has played more against this team and he’s played well, so we like them both.”
The Blues open the playoff at home with Game 1 set for 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Scottrade Center. Game 2 is 2 p.m. Saturday, also at Scottrade.
Blues captain David Backes grew up near Minneapolis and was asked about a playoff series in his home state.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
“For me it’s year nine in the league and time we do some real damage in the playoffs,” Backes said. “Whether we’re at my hometown or in some foreign country somewhere, it doesn’t matter. We need to win games and that’s really my focus.”
Meanwhile, Blues fans continue to focus on the goaltending equation.
Prior to back-to-back losses against the Wild earlier this season, Elliott was 6-0 against them during his career with two shutouts. Even factoring in a 1-2 record vs. the Wild this season with a 3.80 goals-against average and .850 save percentage, he still is 7-2 lifetime vs. Minnesota with a 2.32 goals-against average and two shutouts.
“Elliott, other than that fluke shot barrage that happened in Minnesota, Brian’s played great against them,” Hitchcock said. “This is a new experience for Jake, so we’ve got a veteran guy that’s had some good experience, then we’ve got a young guy who’s really emerging. I’ve got the best of both worlds and I’ll make (a decision) sometime Wednesday or Thursday.”
The Blues have relied heavily on Allen recently and he responded by allowing just one goal in each of his last four starts. He was 3-1 during that span with a 1.01 goals-against average and .964 save percentage.
Why does Elliott have success against the Wild?
“Because they’re a rush attack team,” Hitchcock said. “They’ve got a predominant amount of scoring chances on the rush. We’ve got way more than they do on the cycle and they’ve got way more than we do on the rush. That’s been the big difference.”
Pressed as to how he might make the final call, Hitchcock said “I don’t know, I’ll flip a coin the next couple days and decide.”
There is no goalie controversy in Minnesota. The Wild were 28-9-3 after the arrival of goaltender Devan Dubnyk in a January trade with Arizona and with him in net, Minnesota held 29 of its last 39 opponents to two goals or fewer.
Dubnyk had made 38 straight starts before finally getting a game off last week.
The Blues’ forward lines and defense pairings at practice Monday were the same as they used in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Wild in the regular-season finale. Center Paul Stastny remained in between Jaden Schwartz and T.J. Oshie, with Jori Lehtera centering Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes on a line with Dmitrij Jaskin and Patrk Berglund.
That doesn’t mean they will stay that way for Game 1.
Asked about the possibility of using Robert Bortuzzo on defense, Hitchcock said, “I don’t know that I’d go to the bank on that or some other options. We’ll make some changes on Wednesday, we’ll tweak a few things and which combos we like. Not only defense pairings but forwards, too.”