Remember all of those fans (and even some writers) that were suggesting and even insisting that the Blues trade Brian Elliott? They're all pretty quiet right now, aren't they?
Elliott posted his third consecutive shutout with a 2-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild. As the Blues picked up their sixth consecutive victory, Elliott collected his fifth consecutive "W" since returning from a conditioning stint in Peoria.
The shortened 2013 season really is an odd one, isn't it?
Elliott started the season strong, posting a 3-1-0 record with a 2.25 GAA in the month of January. Unfortunately, the good times didn't last long as he followed up a strong first month of the year with two extremely poor ones. After just 11 appearances in 2013, numerous fans were ready to run Elliott out of town, seemingly willing to forget what Elliott accomplished for the Blues just one year ago.
The notion to trade Elliott was ridiculous in the first place. Yes, Jake Allen played well when called upon but just as we shouldn't make too many judgments based on a small sample size for Elliott, we shouldn't make too much of Allen's brief stint (13 games) in the NHL. The Blues weren't going to abandon a goaltender with tons of NHL experience locked up under a cheap contract ($1.7 million in 2013, $1.9 million in 2013-14) for one that's barely dipped his toe into NHL waters behind a starter, Jaroslav Halak, that's proven he is not only susceptible to injury but also requires regular rest.
Give Elliott credit. He suffered through two excruciating months only to rebound arguably better than ever.
Let's take a look at just how good Elliott has been.
Add three shutouts to Elliott's NHL resume. This brings his total as a member of the Blues to 12, passing St. Louis icon Grant Fuhr.
Over his last six games, Elliott has stopped 125 of 130 shots (.961save percentage). His positioning has been nearly perfect. At the start of the year Elliott would stop a shot and then appear to lose his positioning, flailing or even "swimming" in his crease as opposed to holding his ground, preparing for a shot off any rebounds. Speaking of rebounds, Elliott has cut down on the pure amount of rebounds he's giving up. When he has given up a rebound, most have been relatively controlled and away from danger.
Most importantly, Elliott has his confidence back and it's showing. He's acting like a man with complete control and poise in the net and it's guiding the Blues to their best streak of 2013.
Will Elliott's current run continue? Probably not. He's not going to shut out opponents the rest of the season, as much as we might all hope for it. It's important to never read too far into statistics from a small sample size. Elliott has looked like the worst goaltender in the league and the best goaltender in the league all in the same season. Is he either of those? Probably not.
In the mean time, let's all enjoy Elliott's ridiculous play as long as it continues and enjoy the silence from all of his critics.
Some of us knew there was plenty of blame to go around. Sure, there were some softies going through both Elliott and Halak after the 6-1-0 start, but there were also gaping holes in the team defense, particularly in the nature of backchecking on the part of the forwards, and failure to properly play the offensive system - failure to get the puck past the opposing blueline being a big contributing factor to odd-man rushes against, which are about the best way in hockey to hang a goalie out to dry.
The Blues goaltending didn't look awful for no reason, in other words. Sure, part of it was the goalies not stopping shots they should have stopped, but part of it was also the team allowing shots that they shouldn't have allowed in the first place.
This is probably a good time for me to re-up, or re-buy-in, to something I've said a couple of times already: It's interesting to me how, when this team follows their responsibilities in Hitchcock's system, the goalies look better, the shots against drop, the quality shots against really drop, the number of shutouts increase, the PK looks better, and the goals for and power play success fall. Welcome to defensively responsible hockey.