Blues will use goalie tandem again next year

ST. LOUIS — There wasn’t much news during the season-ending press conferences for Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and general manager Doug Armstrong on Tuesday morning, but they did address the future of the team’s goaltending situation.

A year ago, the Blues announced that they were moving on from Ryan Miller and then re-signing Brian Elliott and promoting young prospect Jake Allen to serve as the team’s goalie tandem.

That tandem was in the spotlight down the stretch this season as Elliott struggled and Allen surged and Allen was named the starting goaltender for the first round of the playoffs. He played well for the first four games, when the Blues and Minnesota Wild each recorded two victories, but struggled in Games 5 and 6 as St. Louis lost and was eliminated. Allen was pulled in favor of Elliott during Game 6.

Armstrong and Hitchcock said Tuesday that the two goalies would serve as a tandem again during the 2015-16 season and would be competing for who would get more starts.

“I think what you see around the league is the top and the bottom-end goaltending has gotten very close,” Armstrong said. “So you’re very comfortable having two and playing both. I think that’s the way we entered this season, that it was Brian’s job and Jake was learning and Jake got up to speed quickly and then they jostled for position.

“From a competitive standpoint, that’s what you want. You want to see from a manager’s prospective, guys jostling and trying to be a great teammate, but to capture ice and not give it up. I see us next year with a goalie tandem. If one of them takes the ball and just never drops it, never gives it up, good for us, bad for the second guy. If that doesn’t happen, the second guy better be ready to grab it and not give it back.”

Elliott went 26-14-3 in 46 games this season and recorded a 2.26 goals-against average and .917 save percentage with five shutouts. Allen went 22-7-4 in 37 games during the regular season with a 2.28 GAA and .913 save percentage with four shutouts.

In six playoff games, Allen went 2-4 with a 2.20 GAA and .904 save percentage. Elliott, in his brief playoff appearance, had a 2.29 GAA and .857 save percentage (one goal allowed on seven shots on goal).

Hitchcock, who may or may not return as the team’s coach next season, was excited about the tandem returning for the 2015-16 campaign.

“That’s going to be a great competition that’s going to make the team really good,” Hitchcock said. “Because you’ve got a young guy that wants a bigger piece of the pie and it’s going to make for great personal competition through training camps, through exhibition games. You’ve got two good goalies going at it, we benefit. We benefit big-time.

“I know it’s probably difficult for Brian and difficult for Jake, but the team benefits because of it. It’s that competitive cauldron that you love on your hockey club. It’s like the five and six defensemen who are trying to take the top four spots. It’s a great atmosphere for the coach and it’s a really tough atmosphere for the players. But, man, is it ever good for the team. I see that happening because Jake was really good in the first three games when we weren’t very good. He really will have gained a lot of confidence and Brian’s not giving it up easy. He wants it back. It’s going to make for great drama.”

Related stories:

Hitchcock undecided on future

Audio: Hitchcock, Armstrong meet the media

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com


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