Jaroslav Halak is slated to get the start when the St. Louis Blues take on the Boston Bruins tomorrow. This has already ruffled some feathers of fans and pundits because of the 5-4 shootout loss that he absorbed from the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. Without a doubt, Ken Hitchcock is doing the right thing by putting his No. 1 goalie back in goal against the B’s though.
Halak will play vs. Boston #stlblues
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) February 5, 2014
There are a few reasons why Halak should get the nod over Brian Elliott against Boston. No one is going to sit here and say that the former made all the saves that he should have against the Senators. For instance…
For the reason why pulling the plug on Halak wouldn’t be the right move, one needn’t look any further than Ottawa, ironically enough.
Paul MacLean has juggled Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson all season long, regardless of who’s playing well and who isn’t. For instance, when Lehner was on a winning streak in the earlier part of the season and Anderson returned from injury, MacLean immediately benched the hot glove.
What does that have to do with the goaltending situation in St. Louis? Teams and netminders typically respond strongly to consistency. In giving Halak another crack at a good team like the Bruins, Hitchcock is sending a message. It might not be a message that you like, but it’s clear: You’re the No. 1 guy, now go out there and play like it.
That’s the right thing to do. Especially considering that Tuesday marked only the second time all year that Halak has taken back-to-back loses. He’s 23-8-4, and he made it to this point in the season without eating consecutive losses frequently. That’s impressive.
While Halak was outplayed by Lehner last night—let’s be honest, that game could have been 6-1 Blues at the end of the second period—he wasn’t bad against the Carolina Hurricanes. What sort of message would it have sent to the team if Elliott had been given a shot at the Bruins?
This is a potential Stanley Cup Final matchup. Not to put the cart before the horse, but these are two of the best teams in the league, and Hitchcock needs to have his top guy going right now. He needs to know what Halak looks like against the Bruins, and he needs his No. 1 goalie to know that he’s the No. 1 goalie even after he plays a bad game.
That’s what this start means to Halak and the Blues. That sort of faith can pay dividends down the stretch, and everyone needs to have a bit of faith that Hitchcock knows what he’s doing here. If Halak gets the hook against Boston and lays a few more eggs then maybe we can talk about the need for a shakeup. Not after Tuesday night though. Not yet.