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Brian Elliott making saves, coaching and doing a little spying for successful St. Louis Blues

DALLAS -- It's not just making saves that's setting St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott apart.

"He's not just stopping pucks. He's reading plays," Blues goalie coach Jim Corsi said after the Blues 4-1 win in Game 5 gave them a 3-2 series lead over the Dallas Stars. "All the great goalies do that. That's what he's doing."

Elliott has been a rock for the Blues this postseason. He's provided the kind of goaltending this franchise hasn't had at this time of year in the recent past. And his performance in a Saturday matinee game against a Stars team that was going all-out offensively was one of his best yet.

Elliott finished the game with 27 saves, and the way he's providing his teammates with confidence has moved the Blues within one win of the Western Conference finals.

According to Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, Elliott will let his teammates know before the game that he's got a couple big stops in him, the kind of saves that can change an entire game or the complexion of an entire series.

"He told us, 'I'm going to make those big saves,'" Shattenkirk said. "He's been doing it for these entire playoffs and it's been amazing."

The save in this game that would qualify as the biggest was Elliott's point-blank stop on Cody Eakin early in the third period.

The Blues were up two goals and it was another in a series of passes from Patrick Sharp to Eakin in Game 5 that Eakin couldn't finish with a goal. In this case, Elliott wouldn't let him.

With Eakin camped out on the top of the crease and slowly drifting back to Elliott's left, the pass came across the slot for a one-timer from Eakin, the guy who scored the winner in overtime of Game 4.

There was no hesitation from Elliott, who pushed off and absolutely stoned the Stars forward.

"You try to get over, get big, seal the ice and take care of any garbage left out in the front," Elliott said in recalling the save after the game. "It was kind of a bang-bang play, didn't have much room. Just tried to be big."

Boy, was he ever.

According to war-on-ice.com, the Stars had 35 even-strength scoring chances in this game compared to 18 for the Blues. They had nearly twice as many high-danger scoring chances as the Blues, outpacing them in that category 15-8.

Of those, just one ended up with the puck behind Elliott.

If that's all he did, it would have been impressive enough. But Elliott's presence in the room and on the ice has made a big difference this spring.

It manifests itself in comments during intermission, when Elliott might share something he's noticed about the opposing goalie. Or when a Blues player wins a puck battle along the wall in the defensive zone, they hear it from their goalie, letting them know that critical play was appreciated.

"He's not the goalie that sits in the corner and doesn't say much," said Blues forward Scottie Upshall.

He sees the ice so well and points out to teammates tendencies of the opposition that the Blues need to fix or expose.

In this game, for example, Elliott noticed the Stars consistently having the third or fourth player trailing down the center of the ice and were effective in getting that player the puck.

"We have to take care of business a little better in the middle of the ice," he said. "We'll be fine."

He's coaching. He's smothering pucks. He's strong playing the puck and acting as a third defensemen for the Blues.

He's out there playing hockey.

He now has 12 playoff games under his belt in this postseason, a nice growing sample size of success, and in those games he has a .932 save percentage. He's won seven of them and lost another two in overtime.

The success follows a regular season in which he posted a .930 save percentage, best in the league. He's doing now what he's been doing all season long. It's just that the reward with each strong performance gets a little bit better.

"He's a great goalie. He's always been," Corsi said after the win. "He's got an opportunity to shine now."