Don’t Give Up on Jake Allen Just Yet

jake allen #34 of the st. louis blues makes a save against the minnesota wild during the game on december 11, 2016 at the xcel energy center in st. paul, minnesota.

The stat lines aren’t pretty for St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen, and recent performances perhaps even worse since the turn of the 2017 calendar year.

The 26 year-old netminder has yet to pick up a victory since the Winter Classic and has also been removed in three of his last five starts. Had it not be for St. Louis’s strong first quarter of the 2016-17 campaign (11-6-3, 25 points), this recipe would brew major concern.

After surrendering three goals on 11 shots in St. Louis’s most recent 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins, Allen was relived of Carter Hutton after one period and said “I’ve got to be better” per STL Today’s postgame article from Tuesday.

This realization in itself is quite a high level of accountability considering Allen is the youngest starting goalie in the Central Division aside from Connor Hellebuyck and has never really had an opportunity to seize a No. 1 role until three months ago.

Although St. Louis and its goaltending situation may have more problems than answers at the moment, Jake Allen possesses the determination and ability to work past arguably the roughest stretch of his career.

One reason to maintain hope in the 2013-14 AHL Goaltender of the Year recipient is his ability to perform in high stakes. He sports a .897 save percentage on the penalty kill, which is slightly below his overall mark and has been justifiable for a Blues team on pace to eclipse 800 penalty minutes for the fourth straight season.

Allen has been an even larger force in division games with an 8-5-1 record, helping the Blues gain traction and limit opportunities for their most common opponents to climb in the standings. Add that with the fact that he has not lost more than two consecutive games in regulation since the start of the season, St. Louis has a reason to remain optimistic about the netminder that signed a four-year, $17.4 million contract last offseason.

It’s also important to remember that hockey players are human, demonstrated by none other than Allen’s previous successor Brian Elliott. Before Elliott became St. Louis’s all-time shutout leader, there was once a time during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign that he needed a conditioning stint in the AHL.

He rebounded admirably for the rest of the season, collecting 11 victories with a .938 save percentage. Elliott then went on to become only the fourth goaltender with at least 100 wins in franchise history, a found a more consistent approach that made once-highly touted anchors Jaroslav Halak and Ryan Miller more expendable.

Similar arguments can be made for Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk, both who fluctuated between multiple teams and affiliates before pushing for Vezina consideration last year. Perhaps St. Louis has invested more stock in breeding Allen as its No. 1 goaltender than when they drafted Bishop in 2005, but nevertheless these bounce-backs show strong goaltenders can make necessary adjustments over time.

Most importantly, Allen has played well given the circumstances of his struggles. St. Louis’s collective woes haven’t helped his case either, as the Blues have dropped all the way from second to sixth in the Western Conference standings with a -4 goal differential since the start of December.

Despite ranking 35th in save percentage (.902) and 28th in goals against average (2.70) among qualifiers, his 17 wins place within the NHL’s Top 10. Allen has also helped the team garner four wins with single-game save percentages below .900, further demonstrating his poise to grind through game-to-game challenges and performances that may not qualify as his personal best.

As the second half of the season approaches, the opportunity to rebound is one for Jake Allen’s taking and one that he is capable of handling. His next opportunity is expected to come Thursday night against the only team he shutout this season in the Los Angeles Kings.

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