If you’ve been holding off pressing the panic button with regards to the Blues goaltending situation, it may be time to pop open that clear glass container.
Thursday night really couldn’t have gone worse for the netminder expected to carry the franchise to new heights this season. In a 7-3 loss to the Capitals, Jake Allen returned after a few games off by coughing up two goals on the first three shots he faced before being replaced by Carter Hutton–but wait, there’s more.
Allen returned to finish the first period, only to be yanked for good after surrendering another pair of goals in the second. And not 10 seconds into his second stint on the ice, Hutton gave up a goal. It was a bloodbath.
It was the fourth game of Allen’s last six starts that he was pulled, and this time, it happened twice in the same game. Not his best work. Other than considering the quality of the opponent, it’s tough to find a silver lining to this one.
One could argue that the silver lining as it relates to the bigger picture is that Thursday’s beatdown was only one game–however many goals were scored, it’s still just one loss.
But it highlighted a trend. For the second game in a row, the Blues allowed at least six goals–at home. Over their last six, the Blues have allowed five or more goals four times.
Goaltending, defense–they’re both broken.
As for the goaltending, when you give up seven goals–four by Allen, three by Hutton–there’s a significant problem. With reference to his starter, Ken Hitchcock didn’t deny it.
“There’s a lot going on right now–there’s a lot in his head,” Hitchcock said of Allen. “He’s kind of locked up mentally and he’s going to have to fight through this. What we see at practice, we like–that’s why we put him back in, quite frankly. We know right now we’re going to need way better just to be competitive… Beating it up anymore isn’t going to do us any good, but we’ve gotta get him unlocked.”
“Nobody anticipated this. Nobody on our team, nobody in this city anticipated this–but we got it. We’re going to have to figure it out, because there’s no help wagon coming. We’re going to have to do this ourselves.”
Hitchcock wasn’t ready during the postgame to commit to Allen in net for the short-term while he works through his issues.
“This is the NHL,” Hitchcock said. “We’re in for points. So we’ve gotta figure what our next step is.”
As David Perron mentioned after the game, you don’t allow seven goals in a game without the rest of team contributing to the failure. The Blues were a mess defensively and in puck management, and they didn’t pose much of a threat to a crisp and quick Capitals team.
“If you look at three of the goals today, they were in the slot, with time,” Hitch said. “And bizarre things–people losing sticks, trying to stay on the forecheck, trying to not let it come in, somebody falling down on a simple one-on-one. A lot of it is because we’re just trying everything we can to not get scored on or shots on goal.
“We’re wasting a lot of energy trying to keep pucks in and keep them alive, and not get into our end. We’re not focused on the energy where you need to have it.”
Has the team's trust in its goaltenders simply evaporated? Based on Hitchcock’s comments, it sure sounds like that could be the case.
It’s a bit of a chicken or the egg conundrum for the Blues: is poor goaltending causing desperation from skaters trying to keep the puck out of the defensive zone–leading to bad defensive positioning and open looks–or is the bad defense causing poor goaltending?
Yes, both, all of the above. The backstops didn’t bail out the skaters for their miscues, and the skaters didn’t do a thing to put their goalies in positions to succeed. None of it is conducive to winning, and all of it has to change.
“This is a team; there are no individuals,” Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s got to come from in this locker room. It’s a collective effort. Right now, it needs to be better."
Colton Parayko emphasized getting back to a simplified game. In the past, Hitchcock has considered that simpler brand of hockey something the Blues find more readily on the road. If that’s the case, bully for the Blues: eight of their next 11 games will be played away from Scottrade Center.
“We played well there (on the road); we thought we were building something,” Pietrangelo said. “We came home and again, it wasn’t good enough. We go back on the road here, so this is an opportunity to get things going the right way. But we’ve got to figure out what the problem is before we (can do that).”
The problem Thursday night appeared to be just about everything, so the Blues need a wholesale turnaround to find their stride once again.
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