During a three-game January road trip, the St. Louis Blues starting goalie, Jake Allen, didn’t make the trip with the team. Then-head coach Ken Hitchcock asked Allen to stay home, while they called up Pheonix Copley from the AHL. The reasoning was Allen’s lackluster performances prior to the trip. In his previous five starts before the road trip, Allen had only won one game. He let in a total of 21 goals throughout those five starts, including seven to the Washington Capitals.
Being told to stay home was hard for Allen. He had become a father only a few days before the trip, and the team said that they thought time with his newborn would help him get out of the funk. Reassurance and support from fans bombarded the 26-year-old Allen, and it slowly pulled him out of the funk. He went on a seven-game streak where he looked really good, going 5-2-0. The wins included a shutout against the Ottawa Senators. Allen struggled again towards the end of February with four-straight losses, but made up for it in March.
Jake Allen Leading the St. Louis Blues to Victory
He was on fire to end the season. His record in March was 8-1-2, and when combining that with the four starts he had in April the record climbs to 11-2-2. In the overtime and shootout losses, Allen had 28 and 31 saves. Only once all month did he allow more than three goals in a start.
After he pulled himself out of his slump, Allen was one of the best goalies statistically. A lot of this credit goes to Martin Brodeur and Ty Conklin, who became the team’s goalie coaches on February 1. Allen’s already-elite skill, combined with the teachings of two experienced goalies, has made Allen an unstoppable force through the last third of the season. Allen came into the postseason on a two-game winning streak, and had looked good.
The attention wasn’t on Allen though, the re-acquisition of Vladimir Sobotka and the success of Ivan Barbashev shadowed Allen’s play. He was in the background, and he fixed that in Game 1 of the series.
Jake Allen Playoff Success
In the first game he had 51 saves, and had a shutout before Zach Parise scored with 22 seconds left in the game. That didn’t kill Allen’s momentum though. He had 43 saves at the end of regulation, and he went on to save eight more shots in the overtime period. His 51-save outing headlined the NHL after the first day of playoffs, and even after all of the Game Ones were done. His performance was outstanding, and the main reason the Blues won the first game.
Allen looked just as good in Game Two. He allowed one goal in that game as well. But the 23 other shots he saved were again all impressive saves. He again shut down the Minnesota Wild’s offense, but this time with half the saves. Still, he was a force to be reckoned with in that game as well. He even made an impressive, behind-the-back pass in the midst of the game, when he went out to play the puck behind the net. It seemed as though there wasn’t much Allen couldn’t do that game, and it led to another Blues win.
Game Three was no different than the previous two. Even with two games, and 75 shots under the Wild’s belt, they couldn’t beat Allen. They hammered him with 41 shots throughout the game, and Allen only let one by. The goal came from Charlie Coyle, the first player besides Parise to score on Allen during the series. Again Allen was standing on his head this game. 40 saves later, the Blues had taken a 3-0 lead in the series. Many sports journalists admitted to being foolish for doubting the Blues, who were hot going into the playoffs. Some even called Allen a reincarnation of his goalie coach, Brodeur.
In Game Four, Allen was on the wrong side of the goalie duel. Both teams had 28 shots, but Allen allowed two, while his counterpart, Devan Dubnyk, shut out the Blues with the Wild’s season on the line. The opening goal of the game came from an Allen mistake, who passed the puck up the boards right to Coyle. He wired the puck in before Allen was in position. Brodeur still has to teach Allen that side of the goalie game.
In four games, Allen has faced 145 shots. And in four games, he’s only let five behind him. That’s an average of 35 saves per game, a feat that’s impressive on its own. He’s been pivotal in the series for the Blues. Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau has grown increasingly frustrated with Allen’s spectacular play, presumably like the rest of his team.
Looking Into Game Five
After Game Three Boudreau said: “If you’re looking for me to criticize our team, it’s not going to happen. We were friggin’ good tonight, and we didn’t get the breaks.” The explosion of emotion isn’t like Boudreau, and it showed the team’s anger. He’s not wrong either. The Wild have done very well against the Blues so far. They’re outshooting the Blues 145 to 107, and have held the Blues strong power play to only being 1/11. It’s clear that the Wild are outplaying the Blues, and that makes Allen’s play all the better. He’s been bombarded with a load of smart shots every game, and has stopped all but five. He’s become the key to the team’s winning, and is okay with it. After Game One he simply said that it’s “his job”.
If the Blues hope to win Game 5 on Saturday, and contest the next series against either the Nashville Predators or Chicago Blackhawks, they’ll have to relieve some of the weight on Allen’s shoulders. Although Allen remains humble, it’d be hard for any goalie to continuously deliver 40-50 saves a game. He received a two-day break after the team’s win on Sunday, and gets another now, and that might be enough for him for refuel and deliver yet another spectacular performance in net, and top the Wild for good.