Should Conklin Get More Starts?
Road Sweet Road. The Blues continued their strange season with yet another big win on the road following a dismal loss at home. The team rode Ty Conklin’s incredible 42 save effort to defeat Detroit 1-0 at the Joe. As the team continues to search for answers in scoring goals, the goaltending usually doesn’t come up when discussing things that need to be changed or need to be fixed. One has to wonder though, following Chris Mason’s shaky play, should Ty Conklin see more starts?
Detroit certainly had their chances. In addition to 42 shots that found the net, they also enjoyed a lengthy 5-on-3 power-play which they failed to capitalize on thanks to some dominant play by the penalty kill led by Barrett Jackman. The Blues owe this one to the outstanding play of Ty Conklin, a player who has mostly flown under the radar while sitting in the backup role.
Conklin’s numbers on the year have been solid. He is 5-2-1 on the year with a tiny 2.00 GAA and a save percentage of .939. Most teams would love to have this sort of production from their starter, let alone a guy who is placed in the backup role.
Perhaps what is most impressive about Conklin’s season thus far is the game’s in which he has come up huge despite not seeing much action on the ice. Remember back to a big shutout win against Anaheim in October. More recently, a clutch win against San Jose on the road and of course a win against the Blues’ rival on their home ice. For a guy to do close the door on some very talented teams as Conklin has while not seeing regular work truly shows what an outstanding goaltender he is. No signs of rust, no signs of any delayed reflexes. Just reliable goaltending night in and night out.
So that raises the question: Should Conklin be taking away more starts from Chris Mason?
In my opinion, yes. He should at least see a few more starts in the coming weeks. So far Mason has started 21 games to Conklin’s eight. I think this split should be reduced to something closer to 60-40, especially considering Mason’s struggles of late. Mason’s has allowed three goals or more in each of his last four starts and in five of his last six. Seeing as the Blues are struggling (to say the least) to score, they can’t expect to win when their netminder is allowing 3-4 goals per game. Mason doesn’t look quite as focused or resilient as he did earlier this season and maybe part of the blame goes to the amount of work he is seeing.
The Blues have a more than reliable backup in Ty Conklin and should use him more not only to keep Mason fresh, but because Conks is a very talented goaltender himself and capable of winning (like last night) each time he plays. The Note went out and got Conklin for this very reason but have yet to use him as I originally anticipated. Instead, they are using him a lot less than I think they should.
Let’s look back. Conklin spent last season with Detroit and the year before that with Pittsburgh. Combined, he went 43-19-7 in those two seasons. His GAA in each season was 2.51 and his save percentage hovered between .910% and .920%. Clearly, his resume screams reliability. That’s why the team went out and got him. So why let him sit idle on the bench when it is apparent that Chris Mason is struggling? Why not give him a handful of starts (not just the second start on a back-to-back) and see what happens.
I’m thrilled to have the likes of a Conklin in net behind Mason, but with 29 games played, I had hoped to see him have way more than eight starts to his name. Give Mason some rest, play the hot hand and start Ty Conklin tomorrow against Edmonton. Maybe that change of pace will spur the Blues to a win on home ice.