Goalie intrigue! Assuredly something that Ken Hitchcock has a minimal tolerance for, Hitchcock put an end to the speculation as to who his number one is for now by making the decision to start Jaroslav Halak on Tuesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks. Halak has just one win on the season, but he is the starter. Hitchcock has to see him in action before he makes a decision as to who he needs to start in the game. It seems unreasonable for him to start the backup, despite Brian Elliott’s record and stats. He needs to watch both goaltenders in goal multiple times to see how he responds to Hitchcock’s tight system.
Payne used Elliott because Elliott gave him the best chance to win. With Hitch, the system gives him the best chance. His tight-checking defensive approach does wonders for any goalie — literally, any goalie. Steve Mason got nominated for a Vezina while Hitch was in Columbus. Roman Chechmanek and Robert Esche combined to win the Jennings during his stint in Philly. One year his Dallas team finished third in goals allowed with an Andy Moog-Arturs Irbe timeshare.
Hitchcock won the Cup in 1999 with an Ed Belfour/Roman Turek (!) combo. Belfour’s stats that year? 1.99 GAA and a .915 save percentage. Turek’s stats were also quite impressive, with a 2.08 goals against average. Hitch gets what he needs to out of his goalies by building a wall in front of them, thereby making sure that they truly are the last line of defense – not just a stopgap when the defense doesn’t feel like trying.