UPDATE (4:09 p.m. PT): Jake Allen will replace Brian Elliott between the pipes in Game 4 against the Sharks, head coach Ken Hitchcock announced Friday.
SAN JOSE – Blues goalie Brian Elliott is not the primary reason the St. Louis Blues are trailing the Sharks, two-games-to-one. After all, the Blues don’t have a goal in more than 150 minutes, and there’s nothing Elliott can do about that.
Still, his status as the starter for Saturday’s Game 4 is now in doubt. He was pulled on Thursday after Tomas Hertl’s second goal of the evening put San Jose ahead, 3-0 in the third period.
At the postgame press conference, the final question for coach Ken Hitchcock was whether he had a decision to make to go back Elliott for Game 4, or give Jake Allen his first start in the playoffs.
“I thought I’d get away on that one,” Hitchcock said. “Yeah, I'm going to think about that one. Got two good goalies. Pretty good choice. Can't lose on either one.
“But I'll kind of wait that one out, sleep on it. Talk to [goalie coach Jim Corsi], talk to the coaches. See what they think.”
In 17 playoff games this year, Elliott has a 9-8 record, 2.34 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. Allen has come on in relief of Elliott twice in the past five games, his only postseason appearances, stopping all nine shots he’s seen 50 minutes of play.
In the regular season, it was Allen who saw the most action for St. Louis. In 47 games, he posted a 26-15-3 record with a 2.35 GAA and .920 SP. Elliott played 42 games, with a 23-8-6 mark, 2.07 GAA and .930 SP.
While the goaltending may be becoming an issue for the Blues, one problem that’s crystal clear is their offense. That includes Vladimir Tarasenko, who has 10 shots but no goals or points in the series, after producing a team-high 40 goals and 74 points in the regular season.
The cerebral Hitchcock went into a dissertation of sorts on what it takes to be a playoff performer when asked about the talented but slumping Russian scorer.
“The thing that could help him, we can't give him, which is more experience. Can't give it to him. He's learning hard lessons, like any young player. Robby [Fabbri] is learning it. [Colton Parayko] is learning it. Vladdy is learning some really hard lessons.
“The playoffs are for veteran players. The veteran players on both teams have this thing dialed up. … As you experience this as a younger player, you're going to have to learn to fight through a lot if you expect to score. We would like him to learn that lesson a day from now, but we're not sure on the timeframe.
“Some guys never learn it. Some guys can't do it. Some guys learn that lesson and they really become accomplished players, especially scoring players. But he's going to have to fight through everything if he expects to score a goal and contribute offensively.”
Despite their struggles, of course, the Blues can still regroup and earn a split on the road before the series moves back to St. Louis for Game 5. They’ve already faced moments of adversity in seven-game series wins against the tough Blackhawks and Stars, and came out victorious on the other end.
Game 4 is on Saturday (4:15 p.m., NBC).
“Every day is a new day, that's how you've got to treat the playoffs right now,” Alex Pietrangelo said. “We went to two Game 7s, we know that. We know what can happen.”
David Backes said: “I know that we’ve done a good job in the playoffs of when we haven’t played well, we’ve parked it and we’ve come out with good efforts and played better the next game, eliminating mistakes and playing together as a group. … We’re being tested, and now we need to really stick to what’s got us here. If we do that, we’ll enjoy a little more success.”