You can hear the “C” word being whispered a little louder and more frequently in St. Louis lately as the Blues returned from their bye week on Tuesday in Toronto to face the Leafs at Air Canada Centre. They hope to return rested and ready to reboot their season after seriously veering off the rails in recent weeks. Of course, that “C” word is “controversy”, as in “goalie controversy” since default starting netminder Jake Allen has seen his game likewise go sideways along with the Blues won-loss record over the last month or so.
St. Louis Blues Goalie Controversy Rearing Its Head
Backup Carter Hutton has been nothing short of sensational despite a serious lack of goal support from the rest of the team. Then again, you don’t need much support when you are sporting a 1.84 goals against average and a .940 save percentage. Both marks lead the league, even though the sample size is only 16 games. Hutton has been getting the lion’s share of work over the past couple of weeks as Allen has struggled. Hutton got the start again in Toronto on Tuesday after the bye week.
He proved to be up to the occasion as he stopped 29 of 30 shots. The lone goal against him being scored by Connor Brown on a shorthanded breakaway. He actually saw his goals against average and save percentage improve. The Blues came back to win the game in overtime. They were trailing by a goal with less than a minute to play in regulation. It would be hard to imagine that Hutton would not be given the start once more when the Blues face off against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday at Canadian Tire Centre.
Yeo says “No”
So, is there a legitimate goalie controversy in St. Louis? Blues coach Mike Yeo downplays the issue.
“Obviously, there’s been a lot of talk about Jake (Allen) and that’s understandable,” Yeo commented after running the morning skate on Tuesday. “We’re not gonna try to dodge that. Jake’s not gonna try to dodge that.
“I think that he would agree that, number one, he’s not solely to blame for the losses that he’s gotten there”, Yeo went on to say. “But also, he would be the first to admit that there’s another level to his game and we’re confident that he’ll get there. So he’ll get back in. He’s working hard at practice. Had a good practice today and I know that he’ll turn it around.”
Goalie controversies are nothing new to St. Louis or to Jake Allen. Before Allen signed a lucrative multi-year deal with the Blues two years ago, he was locked in an ongoing battle for the top spot between the pipes with Brian Elliott. Allen was named the starter after he signed his new deal and Elliott has since moved on via free agency and now plays for the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Road Ahead
Blues management has a decision to make going forward. It’s become apparent that the Blues are not going to be a high-scoring team. Their pathetic power-play numbers (29th in the league at 14.9%) are a huge factor and perhaps they will improve once Jaden Schwartz returns from his broken ankle. Even still, the team counts on defense and goaltending to get them into any sort of deep playoff run. Whether the guy minding the net is Jake Allen or Carter Hutton is the question.
Last season, Allen had a similar slump and came back with a standout performance down the stretch. He virtually won the first-round series of the playoff against the Minnesota Wild all by himself as he repeatedly stood on his head game after game. It’s not far-fetched at all to imagine a similar scenario panning out in 2018 as well. However, unless or until he falters, Hutton appears to be the mainstay in goal for the Blues.
So, is there a goalie controversy in St. Louis? It appears we’ll just have to wait and “C”.
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