Blues have re-discovered their game

Blues have re-discovered their game

Credit: UPI

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen makes his NHL debut taking over for starting goaltender Brian Elliott in the second period against the Nashville Predators at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on February 5, 2013. Elliott gave up four goals to the Predators. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

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by Andrew Allsman, HockeyStL

KMOV.com

Posted on February 16, 2013 at 2:32 PM

Updated Sunday, Oct 20 at 8:04 AM

(HockeyStL) -- After a riveting win in Calgary on Friday, where the Blues could do very little wrong, the team has seemingly re-discovered what it takes to win. The Blues are now executing what they were preaching during an undeniably bad home stand in which the team went 0-3-1.

The ability to execute and outwork opponents were labeled by the team as key assets that needed rekindling when things were going flat for the team. What the Blues could not do at home, they have done on the road in their past two games, sliding past Detroit in overtime, and blowing past Calgary without incident.

The style of hockey the team is used to displaying is back, or at least it has been the past two games. The team is once again playing team hockey, and letting solid defense create offense, something head coach Ken Hitchcock brought in, and implemented last year. But perhaps the biggest surprise has been rookie goaltender Jake Allen’s play.

Allen, 22, has been a working for his shot in the National Hockey League since being drafted in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. While he has been a project in the works, his development could only move forward so much playing in Peoria. But with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott coming off a Jennings Award-winning season, his chances of playing at the NHL level were slim.

Last week when Halak went down with a pulled groin, Allen was called up, but only watched from the bench as the Blues were pummeled by opponents on what was labeled by Hitchcock as ‘the home stand from hell’. Allen was sent back down to Peoria, only to be recalled less than 24 hours later. Now, Allen has two wins in two starts, and is showing that he is ready for the NHL. Of the 58 shots Allen has faced this year, only seven have crossed the goal line, and for the time being it appears that the Blues’ goaltending situation has found stability.

"This is now five periods of really strong hockey from him," Hitchcock said of Allen in an article posted on the Blues’ website. "We'll see moving forward, we'll see if he gets another start and if he does, hopefully he can continue to play the same way."

Allen’s best performance came on Friday in Calgary where he stopped all but two shots, and came up with several key saves to propel the Blues to a win.

“I was a little bit more comfortable in net,” Allen told Fox Sports Midwest after Friday’s game. “I felt good and confident. We wanted to get a streak going so tonight was huge for us.”

The goaltending situation appears to be déjà vu for the Blues. Last season, Brian Elliott was in a similar position, providing stability for a floundering Halak. Elliott’s first start for the Blues last year was arguably the turning point in the season. With the Blues finally finding their game again, it is not out of the question that in a few months the team might look back on this road trip as the turning point of their season.

With Halak practicing, and working on a return, and Elliott sitting on the bench, it will be interesting to see how Hitchcock handles the situation. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote on Saturday that Halak could be back as soon as Sunday, but with Allen’s play, the team may let Halak rest for an extra couple of days and ride the hot hand.

Last year, Hitchcock never designated a No. 1 goaltender, as he elected to play whoever was playing the best at the time. This strategy worked better than planned as the team solidified behind this idea, and the goaltenders remained as consistent as any duo in the league. However, there were only two goaltenders on the NHL roster last season, and Allen could be the odd man out when Halak is ready to make his return. One thing is certain, Allen’s performance to pull the Blues out of their slump will not be forgotten or overlooked by the team. And it appears that at least for now, Allen has helped bring back the real Blues.

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