The answer is yes. Signing Brian Elliot to a $600,000 two-way deal was a great move as the Blues gained an all star and did not have to sacrifice any assets. It was a minor blip on the radar in the free agency period last summer but it’s panned out wonderfully to this point. What they lost in free agency though was Ty Conklin. This sounds like nothing at first.
I don’t have cable, so all I watch is hockey and the (bad) news. In watching the Phoenix Coyotes, one thing that makes them a different team is goaltender Mike Smith’s ability to move the puck. Any time the Coyotes are on the powerplay and the opposing team clears the puck, Smith is far out of the crease looking to catch the opposing teams’ penalty killers in a line change. Whenever opposing teams casually flip the puck into the Coyotes’ zone, he comes way out of his crease to play it. It’s like having a third defenseman back there. Although Phoenix is one of only two teams in the entire NHL with a worse powerplay than the Blues, this aspect of their game puts other teams on edge. There is never a safe dump in when he’s in the crease. Although keeping the puck out of the net is a goalie’s primary job (and Halak and Elliot have been amazing at it this year), this is one area of the game where Ty Conklin is missed. Elliot and Halak are virtually lost and have virtually no confidence anytime they play the puck. Flipping the puck off the boards and up either side seems to be enough of a task in itself, let alone hitting a player with a pass that generates a rush. The trapezoid rule has kept guys like Brodeur and Turco from not only shutting down other teams’ forecheck, it has also kept them from piling up assists
Among the 16 teams that are currently in the playoff picture, not one of them has as bad of a powerplay as the St. Louis Blues. If the Blues want to go anywhere in the post season, this is going to have to improve. Although it is nowhere near a solution, having a goalie that can move the puck with confidence is one aspect of the game that can and will help. Having a second powerplay unit that doesn’t resemble five strangers at a stick and puck session would go a long way as well.
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Written by Patrick McLellan