They have done so with timely goal scoring, a well-balanced offense, a solid defensive corps, and overall depth. Unfortunately, these factors have not gotten the Blues anywhere when it comes to the postseason.
A big reason for that has been the team’s goaltending. While Brian Elliott had a lot of success in both the regular season and the first rounds of the postseason in both 2012 and 2013, it was his play in the second round that got the Blues in trouble and proved to be part of their demise in the playoffs.
The Blues are hoping that will change with a healthy starting goaltender in Jaroslav Halak. Halak, 28, has struggled with various injuries since joining the organization in the 2010-11 season.
Coming into this season, however, Halak seems like a new man. With the Blues off to a 3-0 start, Halak has won all three games for his hockey club and is doing so with stellar numbers.
In his three starts, Halak has allowed just four goals for a 1.33 goals against average, has posted a .948 save percentage and already has one shutout. For a goaltender who played only 16 games last season, this is all good news for the Blues.
Blues’ head coach Ken Hitchcock told ESPN hockey scribe Craig Custance believes that all Halak needed was a fresh start.
Based on the way Halak has come out to start the season, it is easy to see that he is playing with a sense of purpose. He knows that the injuries he has undergone since joining the Blues have hurt this team and he wants to show the organization and their fans that when healthy, he is one of the best goaltenders in the league.
"You had to write it off," Hitchcock said when we chatted earlier this week. "You had to say, 'Hey listen, this was an anomaly, this isn't a normal season.' We had to figure out a way to just kind of relax and let everything form a new kind of formula this year."
He showed that during the off-season when he decided to stay in St. Louis rather than go home to Slovakia. According to Custance, while in St. Louis, Halak worked with team strength and conditioning coach Nelson Ayotte to get his fitness level to where it needs to be in order to compete in a full and grueling NHL season while also working on some things mentally.
The result has been the look of the Halak that took the Montreal Canadiens all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009. That Halak did everything he could to keep the puck out of the net, kept his team in every game he played and was a steady presence for a young defensive corps, which is exactly what the Blues have this year.
Should Halak stay healthy and continue get the support he needs from the team in front of him, this could end up being a very special year in St. Louis for the Blues and their fans.