Tuesday December 30th, 2014

 
As far as press releases go, the notice from the Blues that goaltender Brian Elliott was activated from injured reserve this morning was pretty much boilerplate. All the usual stuff was there: games missed (14), his record this season (8-4-1 with a league-leading 1.82 GAA and a .931 save percentage).

But it completely skipped over the heart of the matter: Elliott’s return likely signals the end of the line for Martin Brodeur.

You know how the math goes. One goalie in a game. Two goalies in practice. Three goalies can work for a few days, but beyond that? It gets a bit crowded.

Brodeur won’t have to pack his bag quite yet, though. It makes no sense to rush him out the door, what with Elliott needing to prove that the knee that sidelined him is up to the physical rigors of game action. 

If it is, though, and this really is the end for Brodeur, well, at least he went out in style. He picked up his 125th career shutout—extending his NHL record—in a 3–0 win over the Avalanche on Monday night. Having to make just 16 saves didn’t make it the most challenging outing of his career, but no one will remember that. Ted Williams walked away from baseball having hit a home run in his final career at-bat in 1960. No one cares how far it went. Just that it left the yard. It was the exclamation point that his Hall of Fame career deserved, just as the shutout would be for Brodeur

“I’m enjoying every moment of it,” Brodeur told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after Monday night’s win. “Whenever the decision will be made, hopefully I’ll be the first to know, and I’ll be happy or disappointed one way or the other.” 

You can that tell Brodeur's not ready to hang ’em up just yet, especially since he’s just nine wins shy of 700, but he understands and appreciates the chance he was given in St. Louis. It was a limited time offer and the clock ran out with the return of Elliott. 

There may be another opportunity out there tomorrow or next week or next month, but as Brodeur told Blues beat writer Jeremy Rutherford, “[playing for somebody else would] be another big change and one big change a year is enough for me.”

So if this is it, OK. Brodeur e got his chance to prove to himself and to his many doubters that he still has it.

“It’s been a great ride,” he said. “If that’s my last game, it’s not a bad one to leave on.” 

Nope. Not bad at all.

What to watch tonight

Canadiens at Panthers (7:30 p.m. EST; RDS, SNE, FS-F)

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Take note, attendance watchers: Tonight's game at Florida’s BB&T Center is standing room only. And with Canadian snowbirds probably making up half the crowd, it should be a raucous atmosphere as the Panthers look to knock off red-hot Montreal and make up ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Habs have won six of their last seven thanks to some spectacular goaltending—Carey Price has allowed just a single goal in five of those games—and a penalty kill that did not allow a power-play goal in 23 straight chances until the Hurricanes’ Eric Staal finally broke through in Montreal’s 3–1 win over Carolina on Monday night.

The Panthers will be looking to continue their strong play against Atlantic Division rivals. They are 6-1-3 in the division after beating Toronto 6–4 on Sunday. Roberto Luongo (10-14-5 with a 2.61 goals-agaist average and a .917 save percentage in his career against the Canadiens) is expected to start opposite Price, his 2014 Canadian Olympic teammate. Jimmy Hayes, with four goals in his last five games, could be a difference maker for Florida.

Rest of the schedule: Blues at Predators (8 p.m. EST; TVA, FS-MW, FS-TN); Kings at Oilers (9:30 p.m. EST; FS-W, SNW); Canucks at Sharks (10 p.m. EST; SNP, CSN-CA)

What you missed last night

• The Islanders continued to give their fans gray hair, nearly blowing a three-goal lead and losing for the fourth time this month (highlights).

• ​The red-hot Stars, winners of six of their last seven games, cooled off the Rangers, who had won eight in a row (highlights).

• The Flames struck twice in 62 seconds en route to a win over the defending Stanley Cup champions (highlights).

NHL
SI's zaniest hockey moments of 2014

• The Lightning’s Ryan Callahan, Valtteri Flippula and Steven Stamkos erased a two-goal deficit to lead Tampa Bay to a win over the Maple Leafs (highlights).

• A big second period carried the Wild to victory over the Jets (highlights).

• Thanks to Carl Soderberg, the Bruins had their way with the Red Wings (highlights).

• Jiri Sekac and Lars Eller powered surging Montreal to a win over the Hurricanes (highlights).

• The Devils, with their new three-headed coaching system, ended a three-game skid by knocking off Sidney Crosby (nice goal!) and the Penguins (highlights).

• The SenatorsBobby Ryan hung a hat trick on the Sabres in Ottawa’s 5–2 victory (highlights).

• Antoine Vermette of the lowly Coyotes scored twice to down the Flyers (highlights).

The numbers game

• Home teams were victorious in 10 of the 12 games that were played on Monday night. Overall, they are 303-167-71 (a .626 points percentage) through 541 games this season.

• The BlackhawksJonathan Toews now has 36 career shootout goals, two behind all-time leaders Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise of Minnesota.

• Carey Price is now the first Canadiens goalie with at least 20 wins in his first 30 games of a season since Denis Herron went 23-3-1 through his first 30 appearances of 1979–80.

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