ST. LOUIS -- After starting the season 3-6-1 with a whopping 3.65 goals-against average and lowly .851 save percentage, anyone would have been hard-pressed at the time to think Brian Elliott would get a sniff of postseason action, let alone be a starter when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.
But since the St. Louis Blues turned the page on March and journeyed into April, Elliott has resurrected his season and vaulted the Blues onto the cusp of clinching a playoff berth.
Elliott has gone 8-2-0 this month with a 1.37 GAA and .947 save percentage (11-8-1 overall with a 2.48 GAA and .901 save percentage), and with the uncertainty of Jaroslav Halak's groin injury -- although Halak has resumed skating and continues to progress toward a healthy return -- Elliott seems to be the goaltender the Blues will lean on when the postseason begins.
Goalie - STL
GAA: 2.48 | SVP: 0.901
"[Elliott] obviously has been unbelievable, keeping most games to one or zero goals, which is huge," veteran defenseman Barret Jackman
said. "Yeah, he's a guy a year ago who was on a two-way and [Blues general manager Doug Armstrong] gave him a chance. Obviously he did some scouting and found a guy that's a great team guy that works hard. Whether he's in the backup role, or even when he had the stint down in Peoria, he is a professional that goes out there and works hard. Really the way that he's been playing lately is the way we all knew he was going to come around to."
Teammate David Perron said, "It's good to see [Elliott] play the way he has."
When Elliott, who went nearly two months in between NHL victories, went on a conditioning stint with the American Hockey League's Peoria Rivermen, the Blues did it with the intent of allowing him to see pucks and get some work in. As it turned out, it may have been the saving grace to Elliott's season.
He allowed three goals on the first 10 shots he faced, then stopped the final 46 pucks thrown his way, including a 27-save shutout. Ever since, Elliott, who was named by the St. Louis chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association as the team's 2013 Masterton Trophy nominee, has flourished since.
"It was good to get back in some game action and have that little competitive nature out there," Elliott said. "Those guys [were] fighting for a playoff spot down there at the time, so I wanted to do the best I could for them. I wanted to play a great game in front of them, so it was good to see the puck. It's a different game, but stopping those first couple just to get back in the groove of things and have a little fun out there."
Elliott, who did not dress for 11 consecutive games while Halak and Jake Allen manned the pipes, admitted the transition and notion of being No. 3 was tough.
"It was definitely hard because you want to be out there helping your teammates," Elliott said. "When you see things go well, you want to be out there. When things go bad, you want to go out there. Sometimes it's a little tough to take, but we were playing well for a stretch there. I was happy for the team. I just want to contribute as much as possible. … It's a process, and I think it was a positive step in the right direction going down [to Peoria] and playing and seeing some pucks."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who isn't revealing who his starting goalie will be for the playoffs, called Elliott's turn for the better the story of his team's abbreviated season when early on, goaltending was an issue.
"I think he's a great story," Hitchcock said. "I think he's a great story for anybody that is willing to swallow your pride and go down and get your game organized. To me, it's like a baseball pitcher that goes down to Triple-A to get his game in order, finds it, and comes back and has a heck of a season. I think he did that. The one thing that troubles us is, frankly, we could have done it two weeks earlier. If we would have done it two weeks earlier, we probably could have gotten better play from him.
"He's just calm in the net now. He's back to where he was. He's not trying to make the save before the puck's there. He's not over-aggressive, and he's a big guy. Getting through that process of playing in a real game helped him a lot. Kudos to him -- I think he's really done himself proud."