St. Louis Blues Goaltending Resurgence Not A Surprise

Jan 19, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) is replaced by goalie Carter Hutton (40) during the first period against the Washington Capitals at Scottrade Center. Allen returned to the game in the first period and was replaced again by Hutton during the second period. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 19, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) is replaced by goalie Carter Hutton (40) during the first period against the Washington Capitals at Scottrade Center. Allen returned to the game in the first period and was replaced again by Hutton during the second period. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues have gone through some huge ups and downs with their goaltenders in 2016-17. Even so, their resurgence to the top of the statistics should come as no surprise.

St. Louis Blues fans love to hate goaltenders. It’s what they do. It would make a perfect GEICO commercial.

It doesn’t matter who it is. Curtis Joseph was beloved by most, but people saw some faults. He choked in the playoffs was the main one, played out in Detroit as well so maybe that one was somewhat true.

Grant Fuhr was too old. He let in a few too many five-hole goals. Jon Casey was there as the backup…I’m not sure why people thought that was a plus, but I remember hearing those comments at games.

Jaroslav Halak let in too many soft goals. Brian Elliott could play as poorly as he did splendidly.

I’d love to have been around those teams in the 60’s. I’m sure there would have been someone with something negative to say about Jacques Plante or Glenn Hall.

It’s an easy position to pick on. People paying little or no attention to the game see a goal scored and assume the goaltender could have stopped it.

Nevermind that turnover. Nevermind the defensive lapse on the zone entry or the poor man marking that left a player open. The goaltender should have stopped it.

That is the thinking of many. The other thought process is usually that there is something better out there.

According to some, every goaltender in the league is Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur except for whomever suits up for the Blues. That is silly and unrealistic.

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Every goaltender has a bad night. Every goaltender lets in soft goals. We don’t see them because we watch the Blues games and only see highlights of other game (sometimes no highlights if you don’t have NHL Network).

So, we see all of Jake Allen‘s or Carter Hutton‘s mistakes. We don’t always see the others because those mistakes don’t always happen against the Blues.

With all that in mind, despite the opinions of some, the sudden turn around of the Blues’ goaltenders should come as no surprise. It does not to me anyway.

The fact that the team fell to the worst save percentage in the league is a catch-22 or a chicken and the egg scenario if you will.

The Blues were playing terribly during that stretch. They were not scoring, their defending was awful and the quality of shots given up was too high even if the shot totals given up were low.

So, the fact the team’s save percentage suffered is no surprise. If a team is not playing in front of a goalie, the goalie cannot be successful.

A hot goaltender can save a team, like Dominik Hasek with the Buffalo Sabres, but even great goaltenders can be undone by bad teams. Just ask Brodeur how fun it was his last few seasons as the team in front of him in New Jersey deteriorated year by year.

Why then should we be surprised the Blues goalies were not performing when the team was playing horribly? Why were Allen and Hutton automatically unworthy to pull on the sweater?

I’m not blind. Even as a great defender of the position, I will not turn a blind eye to the fact Allen and Hutton had bad games.

Toward the end of Ken Hitchcock’s reign, they were both being asked to do the miraculous. Now that things have turned around, even the players recognize the pressure their masked teammates were under.

Alex Pietrangelo said
Alex Pietrangelo said /

. “I think the biggest thing for us is we’re playing better in front of them. If they give up a rebound or there’s a second opportunity, we’re doing a good job of taking those opportunities away.”

Despite what some want to believe and what lazy members of the media wanted to perpetuate, it was never about one man or one position. Allen was not on the top of his game, but he was not given the support to pull out of his funk either.

The only confusing thing about the turnaround is why goaltending coach great Jim Corsi could not turn it around and whether Ken Hitchcock put undue pressure on the position.

Also from Jeremy Rutherford’s article, “‘Yeozie’ came in and right away showed confidence in Jake, confidence in myself, and I think that’s big for us,” said Carter Hutton. “Jake is our guy and he needs to know that whether he (allows) a couple of goals, he’s our guy. Marty came in and just having his insight and the way that he sees the game has helped, just somebody to be a sounding board for us, has helped us a lot. So for us, it’s great.”

Take from that what you will individually, but there could be things between the lines there. Did Hutton not gel with Corsi? Was Hitchcock not showing enough confidence in either guy?

I would hope that was not the case. I have never heard of goaltenders being pressured by Hitchcock, but he also had a force of nature in net with Ed Belfour when Dallas won the Cup.

The initial word after Corsi was fired was Allen was upset. They had a fairly close relationship. Perhaps a fresh start was still needed.

Whatever the reason, the skillset of the two should never have been doubted. As with anything, people see things differently.

Where I saw Allen being a smooth goaltender with the ability to go post to post in his early days, others said he scrambled too much and looked panicked. Still, the gripe against Allen was unnecessary.

Repeatedly, a case was made that his numbers were quite comparable to guys like Jonathan Quick at the same point in their careers. There was still the outcry that the Blues need Ben Bishop or someone else – nevermind the fact Bishop gives up soft goals as well, but you know.

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In the end, the Blues should be thankful. Their goaltenders kept them in several games and never went into the tank on themselves.

They have a goals against of 1.73 since Yeo took over as Rutherford pointed out.  They have a league best .951 save percentage in that time.

We should be thankful that they pulled themselves out of the funk, real or perceived. Their resurgence is no surprise, but it was never a given either just as it was never a given the Blues would turn things around as they have in recent weeks.