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Hitchcock not revealing Game 1 goaltender for Blues

by Louie Korac /

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has kept everyone guessing regarding his starting goalie for Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA, SN360, FS-N, FW-MW, FS-WI).

The veteran coach continued the guessing game Monday, but judging by Hitchcock's comments after practice, veteran Brian Elliott may have the slight edge over Jake Allen as to who starts Game 1 at Scottrade Center.

Elliott, who made 23 saves to defeat the Wild 4-2 in the regular-season finale on Saturday, is 7-2-0 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .895 save percentage with two shutouts against Minnesota. He was 6-0-0 against the Wild before back-to-back losses against them, 3-1 on March 14 and 6-3 on March 21.

Allen, who is 4-1-1 overall in his past six starts, is 1-0-0 with a 2.38 GAA and .920 save percentage in two appearances (one start) against the Wild.

But Hitchcock, who played Allen in four of the final six regular-season games, seemed to hedge on the fact that Elliott's done well against Minnesota in his career even though Allen has had the hot hand lately.

"The hot hand for me in the playoffs is … I think you've got to really base on who played well against the opposition; I think that's significant," Hitchcock said. "Some goalies are set up for different type of opposition. We like them both right now. [Elliott] has played more against this team and he's played well. We like them both though.

"… Both guys played good. One guy's had a great season, one guy's had a great last five weeks. They've stolen us games. Elliott … other than that fluke shot barrage that happened in Minnesota (on March 21), Brian's played great against them. This is a new experience for Jake, so we've got a veteran guy who's had a good experience and a young guy who's really emerging. I've got the best of both worlds. I'll make it up sometime Wednesday or Thursday."

Elliott's save percentage doesn't jump out as a strong stat against the Wild, but the bottom line can't be ignored, and Elliott has had success beating Minnesota. According to Hitchcock, Elliott also has a strong trait against teams that play a certain way.

"Because they're a rush-attack team," Hitchcock said of the Wild. "Their scoring chances on us this year, they've got a predominant amount of scoring chances off the rush.

"It's really interesting. We've got way more than they do on the cycle; they've got way more than we do on the rush. That's been the big difference, and [Elliott] had a heck of a year defending the rush this year."

The goalies may be on edge wondering who will get the start Thursday, but teammates call it confidence in two guys.

"It's a good problem for a team to have two guys who you know that can go in there and give you a solid effort," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "That decision's his, but I think whoever goes in, as a D-corps we feel pretty confident that we have a solid rock back there."

Elliott finished 26-14-3 with a 2.26 GAA and .917 save percentage with five shutouts on the season; Allen was 22-7-4 with a 2.28 GAA, .913 save percentage and four shutouts.

When asked what would go into his final decision, Hitchcock had a quip ready: "I don't know; I'll flip a coin the next couple days," he said.

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