Jake Allen got the notorious ‘Bronx cheer’ during the St. Louis Blues home opener on Thursday, and rightfully so. He let in five goals in 25 shots as the Blues got stomped on by the Winnipeg Jets, losing 5-1. Only Matt Murray, of the Pittsburgh Penguins, allowed more goals in his season debut. Tuukka Rask and Marc-Andre Fleury also allowed five scores.
But that list of three is star-studded. Fleury and Murray have combined for five Stanley Cups and Rask won the Vezina in 2013-14. The three are some of the best goalies in the league, without argument. That goes to show that one game isn’t going to kill a goalie. In the exact same way that these three will, Allen is going to rebound from the weak home opener and have the solid season everyone hoped he would.
Jake Allen Hasn’t Lost Any Skill
Jake Allen’s been harassed by the local crowd for a few years. Most of the negative comments point out the yearly slumps that he’s gone through since his first full season in 2015-16. The slumps have become expected by Blues fans and are only getting worse.
The Stats of the Slumps
In the 2015-16 season, the slump was moderate when compared to the others. Between December 31 and February 27, he set a record of 0-5-1, allowing 18 goals on 168 shots. This gave him a save percentage of .893 over the stretch. He rebounded nicely, luckily, winning his next six games and going 8-3-0 to end the year.
The habit continued in the 2016-17 year. Again in the middle of the year, this time between December 22 and February 4, Allen went 2-7-0 with a save percentage of .865. Again, he rebounded nicely, winning eight of his next 12 games.
Last year it got dramatically worse. He had his worst slump yet and wasn’t able to rebound from it. In a year where the team was desperately looking for wins, chasing a Wild Card spot, Allen couldn’t deliver. Between December 12 and February 6, Allen went 1-9-0. His save percentage was .902, after allowing 35 goals on 358 shots. He stepped out of the slump with a win on February 9, only to lose his next six games. His stat line was finally able to get back to normal on March 10. He became the team’s go-to starter, again, and finished the year 8-5-1.
Looking at Allen’s Positives
These slumps have become indicative of Allen’s performance. It’s hard to have a conversation about the 28-year-old without mentioning his mid-year breaks. But in all actuality, when Allen is on fire he is one of the best goalies in the league. Yes, I said it. Allen could easily be ranked with the best, including the aforementioned Fleury and Rask.
Allen’s level of athleticism and agility is rare to see, in a league that is dominated by agile goalies. It’s very similar to how goalies like the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy play. Vasilevsky stands an inch taller than Allen and weighs four pounds more, but the two are almost identical. Both harness quick reactions and innate abilities to put their glove or blocker in places that shouldn’t be possible; all in an effort to make highlight reel saves.
Their stats aren’t too different, either. Vasilevskiy has had a much different upbringing, avoiding all but one year of AHL play. Allen set a record of 22-7-4 in the 2014-15 season, his rookie year, and played in 37 games as a whole. He ranked 10 in Calder Trophy voting, posting a 2.28 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
In Allen’s most recent season, when his slump was the worst, he played in 59 games. He set a record of 27-25-3, six fewer wins and five more losses than the 2016-17 season. He ranked ninth in the league in total losses, arguably having one of his worst years yet.
These sort of rough years aren’t very new to Allen, though. Any Peoria Rivermen fan can comment on Allen being the wary backup goalie that the Rivermen had no faith in during his reign there. In the last season before the Rivermen were sold, 2012-13, Allen went 13-19-2 with 2.89 goals-against average. It was arguably the worst season of his AHL career.
Allen rebounded from this poor year with the best of his AHL career. He played in a league-high 52 games that year. As a result, he also won the most games. His record was 33-16-7. Out of all goalies who played at least 30 games, Allen had the lowest goals-against average (2.03) and the highest save percentage (.928). He was the best goalie in the league, without question. It was so obvious that he was actually awarded the Aldege ‘Baz’ Bastien Award, given to the AHL’s top goalie at the end of the year. Other notable recipients include Murray, Ryan Miller, and Manny Legace, the goalie that Allen replaced in the Blues AHL system.
That rebound is very indicative of Allen’s struggles now. He slowly decreased in production, until he stalemated in 2012-13. Realizing his poor play, Allen flipped the switch in 2013-14 and became the best goalie in the league.
The same scenario is happening now. Allen took full responsibility for his play in the team’s season opener. He told the media after the game, “I’ve got to make one of those saves to try and keep us in the game and at least give us a chance.”
The 28-year-old is in his prime and very aware of his mistakes. His work during the training camp is especially useful in seeing his mindset towards this season. At the start of camp, he was sidelined with back spasms, to say the least. It was reported that he could barely walk because they were so bad. Still, he was a daily participant in the team’s camp before it ended and was more-than-ready for opening night.
Allen is determined and has stilled looked good in his time on the ice so far. His attitude and skillset have given Allen everything he needs to have his best NHL season yet, especially considering the weapons that the Blues lineup now has. Blues fans have been all over Allen after his woes in the home opener, but there isn’t anything to worry about. This is his time to shine in St. Louis. If he can play at his top potential, Allen could very well be the Blues secret weapon to a Stanley Cup run.
ST PAUL, MN – APRIL 12: Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes a stick-side save against a shot by Mikael Granlund #64 of the Minnesota Wild during the overtime period in Game One of the Western Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center on April 12, 2017, in St Paul, Minnesota. The Blues defeated the Wild 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)