The St. Louis Blues are in the middle of their first solid streak of play in 2018-19. Go figure, it has to involve a controversy over who to play in the the net.
Stop me if you have heard this before – the St. Louis Blues have a goaltender controversy. We are not even a quarter of the way into the 2018-19 season yet, but the fan base is in midseason form for hating Jake Allen.
Before I delve into this, let me state that I have nothing against Chad Johnson. I appreciate the work that he, and any goaltender, puts in and that they deserve credit for the job they do.
That being said, I flat out believe if this team is pinning its hopes to Johnson to carry them to the postseason and beyond, they might as well tank. I have never advocated for any team I support to tank, but the Blues are simply going nowhere this year if a backup is asked to carry the load.
One of our other editors, Jason Martin, did a nice piece about the goaltending issue. He pointed out that Allen’s numbers have been mediocre and it is understandable that the Blues have been forced to go down this route.
However, I think it is a chicken and the egg scenario. Everyone wants to believe the team is playing better because Johnson is in. I say the team is playing better because they are playing better and Johnson happened to be in net.
Simply look at the quality of chances. When Allen was last in goal, he did surrender five goals. But, it was probably the worst, or at least second worst, game we have seen out of this Blues team.
Allen still made 40 saves in that game. If not for him, the Blues might have given up seven or eight. That has been the story throughout the year, too. Wins against Chicago and Vegas get forgotten because the offense played so well, but Allen had to make good saves to keep those teams out as well. He was also chided for a 46 save performance in an OT loss to Chicago. I’m sorry, you can argue that five goals given up is too much and it is, but if a goalie makes 46 saves and loses, that’s on the team in front.
But, it’s not just about shot numbers. It is about the shot quality and placement on the ice too.
Allen has been facing breakaways and odd-man rushes. He’s had his own players screening him, giving him no reaction time or shots come from prime areas like the circles or slot.
Johnson, has played well, but let’s get real. Carolina had 38 shots, but the Blues kept most of those from the perimeter. If it was not, Johnson had an opportunity to see the blasted thing and actually make a save. What a novel idea.
Johnson had to actually be good against San Jose, but even that game was a different story. That was just not the San Jose team we are used to seeing. There was the occasional defensive breakdown by St. Louis, but you never got the sense that San Jose was on the verge. The Sharks were not swarming the net for long periods.
So, basically, you have two entirely different teams playing in front of their goaltenders. You have the team we saw against Minnesota, that was about as bad as you could be – offensively and defensively – and that got Allen a seat on the bench. Then, you have the team we saw against Carolina and San Jose that was positionally solid, smart with the puck and clearing things out.
It boils down to Allen wins those games that Johnson wins too. They did not win the games because of Johnson. There are people that believe they did and nothing will change that opinion, but I believe they are wrong.
Again, nothing against him personally. He puts the work in and deserves a game here or there. However, he is a career backup.
The most games he has ever been in for an NHL season is 36. It’s a big jump to go from 36 to 50 or more, which is what you need from your starter.
Also, this mentality that Blues fans have is tiring. The backup goalie is apparently like backup quarterbacks. They are always the next big thing.
Jake Allen is not a Hall of Fame goalie, but the situations reminds me of the Rams and Kurt Warner. Everyone was more than happy to hand the reins over to Marc Bulger because we got fooled by how good he was with all those weapons. Start stripping some of that away and we get the Bulger we got and Warner went on to glory elsewhere.
It always feels like the same thing with the other goalie and Blues fans. People are all over social media saying they have to ride Johnson now. The same was true with Brian Elliott and Carter Hutton.
While all played well in spurts, only Elliott actually had starter credentials, but I am not opening that box again.
I still maintain, that Allen can win and will if the team plays in front of him. We have discussed that he is on a similar career path with other winners.
Johnson has played well with other teams and is currently playing well with the Blues. He is not the answer though and I don’t want to hear this nonsense of the team plays better for him. If that’s true, it really is a spotlight on the poor qualities of the teammates, not Allen.
Maybe the Snake will never lead the Blues to the promised land and all the lovely people behind their keyboards will be able to tweet about how right they were. Johnson is not taking this team anywhere either.
So, if that is the horse our hopes are pinned to, we might as well tank and go for the draft pick.