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Jaroslav Halak is turning Brian Elliott into an All-Star backup

Feb 3, 2012, 11:00 PM EDT

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Here’s one for the department of “good problems to have”: the St. Louis Blues seem destined to have an All-Star goalie watching from the bench.

Brian Elliott‘s been a great find for the Blues and they rewarded him with what is a very generous contract for a No. 2 goalie. It’s likely Elliott didn’t think he’d be a flat-out backup, but that seems to be the situation as Jaroslav Halak is establishing a stranglehold on the top spot. That point seems much clearer after Halak shut out the Los Angeles Kings 1-0 tonight.

Paycheck politics

In most cases when a team clearly force-feeds starts to a No. 1 goalie despite his understudy’s brilliance, I chalk it up to “paycheck politics.”

There have certainly been times this season when the Blues seemed a little too eager to put Halak in the lineup when Elliott was out-playing him, but Ken Hitchcock’s system is making Halak look like an all-world goalie again.

Halak takes advantage of St. Louis system

Three of his five shutouts in 2011-12 have come in the last five games, but it’s not like he worked particularly hard to get them. He only needed to make 22 stops against the Kings tonight, 15 against the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 19 and 22 against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 16. (He also needed a mere 19 saves to blank the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 10.)

Halak must feel a bit like Martin Brodeur did in the New Jersey Devils’ best trapping days – or more appropriately like Ed Belfour in similar times for the Dallas Stars with Hitchcock behind the bench – but Elliott hasn’t done himself many favors lately.

Elliott slows down

Elliott hasn’t been a sieve by any means, but he’s just 1-2-2 in his last five games (although his one win was a shutout). It’s true that he hasn’t allowed more than three goals in any of those contests, but with Halak on fire again, it looks like Elliott will be watching most nights.

***

It would all seem unfair-to-downright-tragic if it weren’t for the fact that Elliott received his well-deserved contract extension. Still, it’s tough to deny that the Blues will go as far as Halak takes them in the playoffs, instead.

Don’t believe the Blues when they say that this is just how they drew it up, though.

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