Jake Allen was having an incredible NHL season before going down with an injury on Jan. 8. He is considered week-to-week.
Jake Allen was having a stellar NHL season with the St. Louis Blues before suffering an injury on Jan. 8. He was surely a dark horse Vezina candidate with a 18-10-3 record, a 2.17 goals against average, and a 0.924 save percentage. His five shutouts are good for second in the NHL, and many believed the Blues would struggle without their breakout goaltender. However, when looking at the numbers, the Blues are doing just fine without him.
When you consider the depth on defense and in net, the Blues have plenty of bodies to shut down the opposition. Their main concern over the last few weeks has been scoring goals, not stopping them. They have been able to compete in every game since the Allen injury and were only blown out once in a 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 14. Their only other defeat came against the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 22 in a 2-1 shootout loss.
The Blues are 10-5-5 when Allen does not start, and most of those wins are post-injury. They are 5-1-1 after Allen went down, and Brian Elliot has been the go-to goaltender ever since. He started all seven games games and has posted a 0.941 save percentage and a 1.94 goals against average during that stretch. He is no stranger to being a workhorse in the NHL and has taken this opportunity by the horns.
Starting seven straight games, it would not be surprising to see a tandem of sorts when Allen is healthy enough to return. Elliot has already been part of a tandem with previous Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak and came out of that duo on top. Barring a setback, Elliot will certainly earn some starts when Allen gets back, and it will be intriguing to see who wins the long-term battle this season. Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock will certainly give the reigns to the hotter goaltender and, as it stands, Elliot could very well be that guy.
The Blues also have one of the deepest prospect pools when it comes to goaltending and have a couple of options in the AHL. Jordan Binnington and Pheonix Copley are splitting time for the Chicago Wolves and are the likely call-up candidates in case of injury at the NHL level. They are both highly-skilled goaltenders and have proven success in the AHL. While both goalies are far from NHL-ready, they have certainly earned the chance to prove themselves at the highest level.
Binnington received the first opportunity and rightfully so. He was dominant last season, given his age, and is the 2013 OHL Goaltender of the Year. However, Binnington has yet to start a game and let in one goal on four shots in a relief appearance against the Hurricanes. In his defense, that was a tough game to enter for his first NHL appearance, and he should do better next time around. He has posted a 8-6-2 record with a 2.57 goals against average and 0.910 save percentage in the AHL, which has helped him edge out Copley halfway through the season.
Copley is no slouch and will likely garner much more attention as he mans the crease for the Wolves. He had a strong season with the Hershey Bears and came over from the Washington Capitals in the T.J. Oshie deal. The Washington Post mentioned Copley as a “deal-breaker” in the trade, as the Blues wanted him badly for Oshie. Needless to say, the Blues bolstered their already-impressive goaltending depth and have plenty of young talent to monitor in net.
Despite the phenomenal play of Allen, the Blues have been fine without him. Elliot is still a good goaltender, and the Blues have plenty of choices in terms of backups. While Allen’s services will be more than welcomed as the NHL playoffs roll around, they will not rush their young goaltender by any means. They are still winning hockey games and will want to make sure he is healthy down the stretch to continue his impeccable season.
The Blues will need to focus on creating more offensive chances to continue their success with or without Allen. They are a strong team when consistently scoring but have faltered when they get shut down in the offensive zone. They are strong defensively and have the goaltending to keep the puck out of the net. With that said, the NHL Western Conference can be a doozy, and the Blues will want all hands on deck as they fight for a top playoff spot in the Central Division.
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