Writing about panic always enables me to use this picture, which actually kind of helps to alleviate the panic. Sort of ironic, don't you think?
have been hit hard by the injury bug this year. Not that that's exactly anything new, of course; we've seen too many times the last few season this team derailed by players hitting the training table. But this year, it's been rough.
The usual assortment of bumps and bruises, both upper and lower body, with a few extra unusual ones thrown in here and there. Much worse, though, has been the concussions. Concussions out the wazoo. (I think that's how you spell wazoo. Or should there be two 'z's? Hmm.) Concussions out the ass. (I know that's how you spell ass.) Besides the big one that kept David Perron out for a huge chunk of the season (after ending his 2010-2011 entirely), Andy McDonald and Alex Steen have both missed longish stretches of time. Matt D'Agostini and Kris Russell, too.
Even while all these other various injuries were befalling the Blues, however, there was one group of players notably absent from the injury report: the goaltenders. Sure, there were a few games here and there in which either Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliott couldn't go, but such occasions were few and far between. Being able to count on two healthy goalies at any given time was a huge part of the reason why this Blues team made the remarkable run they did this season, in fact. The Blues in 2011-2012 have been blessed with excellent goalie health.
And now, on essentially the eve of the playoffs, word comes down that Brian Elliott is dealing with an upper body injury. Day to day with an upper body injury, in fact.
Wouldn't you just know it?
Now, before anyone goes getting too very concerned, jumping out of windows or off bridges or into traffic and that sort of thing, let me say that as of right now, word from the Blues' camp is that Elliott could play if called on tomorrow. Actually, that's not quite accurate. Ken Hitchcock said Elliott could play if called upon Thursday
, when the Blues open their playoff series against the San Jose Sharks
So that's the official position, for now: Brian Elliott missed the second half of practice yesterday, is nursing an upper body injury, and could play if need be Thursday. "Day to day," was invoked, always a terrifying proposition. Still, official position, don't panic, things are going to be okay. Sore. Resting. Not really injured.
All I can say is I really, really, really hope that position proves to be correct.
Lest you think the Blues are tripping balls through a field of imaginary daisies high on optimism and lidocaine, however, they have made a roster move already, calling up Jake Allen from Peoria to, hopefully, sit around and provide silent insurance against bad things happening.
The problem, of course, isn't even really the spectre of Elliott being unable to go; the real problem is what could happen if Elliott is well enough to play but limited enough to not play well. This is a team built on stifling defense and airtight goaltending; the Blues probably have the talent to score five goals if they have to, but I wouldn't count on it. One really shaky start from an ailing Elliott wouldn't necessarily be a fatal blow to the Blues. But, then again, it could be.
Jaroslav Halak will be your starting goaltender going into the playoffs. He was going to be anyway, which helps takes some of the sting out of this injury. Teams don't just cruise through the playoffs with one goalie, though; even historically great net runs have a game or two where the primary isn't on the ice. Halak will be the starting goalie for the playoffs, but he won't play every single minute of every single game. And that's where the danger of this injury truly lies.
For now, we'll all have to hope what Hitchcock says is true, and Elliott really is just resting a sore something or other. Hopefully he really could play -- and, more importantly, play well -- as soon as Thursday if called upon. But for a team which has relied all season long on a strangling defensive gameplan to wear down opponents and keep them off the board, the potentiality of a compromised goaltender is more than a little frightening.