The St. Louis Blues have long known who they wanted to be their goaltender of the immediate future, if not the long-term. Due to a poor middle of the season and plenty of detractors before that, fans have been less receptive to the idea.
St. Louis Blues fans and complaining about the goaltender go together almost like peanut butter and jelly. Not everyone does it that way, but it is so common place that it has become part of the culture.
So, Jake Allen never really stood a chance. Even before the 2012-13 season, when Allen filled in admirably while Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott were hurt/struggling, the Blues had it in their mind that Allen might be their next starter.
He began to prove them right with his play in that fill-in role. In 13 games, he went 9-4 and had a respectable 2.46 goals against average. He also made some highlight reel saves in that time too.
You could tell back then that he was ready. He was a smooth glider across the crease. He was confident in his positioning and had the athleticism to make those spectacular saves that had been long gone from the Blues’ crease.
However, with every aspiring player there will always be haters. Elliott had his fanbase and they wanted things handed over to the Moose.
Then there are the other fans that always want some sort of Hall of Fame goaltender in net. The trouble with that is every Hall of Fame player had to start somewhere.
Yes, Martin Brodeur started winning 30 games a season almost out of the gate. He was also playing in 70 or more once handed the reigns.
Allen has not played in more than 47 games in a season since his junior days until the 2016-17 tilt. Barring some unlikely incident, he is about to become the first Blues goaltender to win more than 30 games in a year since Chris Osgood in 2003-04.
So, Chris Mason didn’t do it even with that magical run to end 2008-09. Elliott didn’t do it and Halak did not do it.
The man they call Snake, will be the first Blues goaltender to win 31 or more games in over a decade. Still, there are those muttering under their breath because they were so sure.
Personally, I’ll never get it. The Elliott thing I understand. I was a Halak guy back in the day, so I get being upset that your guy didn’t receive a fair handshake in your eyes.
However, there are legitimately crazy people out there that want Allen to fail. They pop up on Twitter and Facebook. If you have not heard them at a game, consider yourself lucky because it is maddening.
Allen is an NHL goaltender. He is a starter and he can lead a team to a championship.
Anyone that scoffs at that need only look at some of the goaltenders that have won Stanley Cups. Antti Niemi springs to mind immediately. He won with Chicago and is now toiling as part of an unsuccessful duo in Dallas.
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Marc-Andre Fleury is considered very good by some and hated by others. Rings a bell, does it not? He’s won a couple now with Pittsburgh.
The Anaheim Ducks won with J.S. Giguere. He was the flavor of the month and then disappeared.
The point is the Blues can with with Allen whether you love him or hate him. In hockey, you don’t need an all-time great to win. You need someone to catch lightning in a bottle.
Allen is both good enough on a regular basis and can get hot enough to be that guy for the Blues. Maybe it won’t be this year, but the net has not been the problem in recent years that fans and lazy national writers want to make it out to be.
In December and January, all we saw were articles about how goaltending was the Blues issue. Allen had lost his confidence and neither he nor Carter Hutton were playing well, but there were so many overlooked problems because goalies are easy to blame.
Allen is a huge reason the Blues are where they are in the standings right now and that is a positive statement.
Heading into the final five games of the 2016-17 season, Allen has a very nice .914 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against. Those numbers don’t sound fantastic, but they are considering how bad they were in the middle of the season.
Averages are easy to inflate when they are bad and hard to bring down. Allen’s save percentage had dipped into the .800’s during the middle of the year and he had a goals against over 3 briefly.
Since Mike Yeo and Brodeur took over Allen has a .941 save percentage. His goals against is 1.71 over that same stretch as well.
Allen is 11-1-1 in his last 12 games and has given the team no reason to take him out of the net. St. Louis’ last game against Arizona they played Hutton more to keep Hutton sharp than anything against Allen.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for Jake the Snake as he dusted himself off and began to DDT the competition again.
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The bottom line is Allen is playing the way everyone should have hoped and those of us that support him believed he could. He’s smooth in his movements again and looks confident he could get a shutout every game.
Mental strength is not something that comes cheaply and Allen had to go through the wringer earlier. Now he is not expecting bad things to happen and he’s making good things happen.
This year’s Blues team is not as talented or deep as last year’s, due to injury and departure. Still, if Allen and the team continue to play the way they are, who knows what can happen.
Nobody knows what can happen in the future. Ville Husso might be the hot name on everyone’s lips for now, but the Snake is not looking to go anywhere. If he plays like he can, that should be fine with everyone.