Despite what any fans want to believe, the St. Louis Blues were always confident in their decision to hand the team to Jake Allen. He gave us pause in the middle of the year, but came through.
When the St. Louis Blues made the decision to hand the reigns over to Jake Allen, it was met with divisive reaction. As with anything that involves Blues goaltenders, the fans are split almost down the middle.
There were many that wanted the team to continue with Brian Elliott at the helm. There was merit to the idea. Elliott had boldly led the team to the Western Conference Finals. He was hugely responsible for the Blues advancing past the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.
The problem with the idea was not so much a lack of talent compared to Allen. It was more to do with the realities of the game.
The NHL is getting younger and Allen had just as much pure talent, if not more, than Elliott and was younger. At 26, there was more of a future with the Snake in net than there was with the then 31 (now 32) Elliott.
Initially, the Blues were justified too. Elliott struggled mightily with the Calgary Flames. Allen came out of the gates strongly too.
Allen opened the season with only one regulation loss in October. November was a little rougher, but from the middle of the month through early December, Allen rattled off eight consecutive wins.
Unfortunately, the team and Allen took a turn for the worse after that. He had six straight losses to end January and from late December until early February, he ended up with several games below .800 for his save percentage.
Though Allen, and his backup Carter Hutton shouldered much of the blame, the team was just in a horrible tailspin. The Blues were playing awful hockey and with no defense to help stop the problems, the goaltending errors were magnified.
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Then Mike Yeo got promoted and Martin Brodeur was named goaltending coach. Whether it was simply the removal of pressure laid on by Ken Hitchcock or Brodeur’s calming influence, we saw the return of the Allen we had seen early in his career.
Once again, he looked like a player calm in his movements and confident in his positioning. Instead of overextending, he was making the simple movements, going post to post, and putting himself in position to make the easy save and give him a chance to make the big one too.
After all the coaching changes, Allen ended up with the best stats over that period. He had a goals against of 1.85 and a save percentage of .938.
Allen won 11 of his last 15 starts, helping the team move from outside the playoffs to the third spot in the division race. Because of Allen, and the team’s resurgence, the Blues even had an outside shot at gaining the second spot.
Ultimately, it did not matter. Allen single-handedly beat the Minnesota Wild whether the Blues had home ice or not. In Game 1 alone of the opening series, Allen stopped 51 shots and had a .981 save percentage.
Allen regularly had a save percentage in the mid to high .900’s in the playoffs. If he had more offensive support, the Blues might still be playing. So far, St. Louis has given the Nashville Predators their toughest games anyway.
That not withstanding, Allen had a terrific season to start his run as the main starter. It would have been less nerve wracking if he had not gone through that terrible stretch in the middle.
However, I believe it helped him grow. As a professional, everything had been handed to him up to that point. He had to earn his own return to prominence.
It could well be likely that the playoff performance was a flash in the pan. It seems less than likely though.
Allen seems poised to become the goaltender that we all hoped, and some knew, he could become. The man in the net is always under extreme pressure and he will undoubtedly be scrutinized heavily going forward.
He is up to the challenge though. Allen just took the first step into a larger world. It had to start somewhere and it was a great start from an overall sense.