The regular season is underway and the St. Louis Blues have set some pretty high expectations for themselves this year. After falling to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final last season, the Blues are aiming to make a splash in the NHL.
Goaltending was a big reason why the Blues found so much success last season and will be a determining factor in their success this year as well. St. Louis has to put pressure on their netminders if they want to find themselves in the postseason yet again.
Allen to Take the Reigns
This offseason saw the end of an era of St. Louis goaltending. Brian Elliott was traded to the Calgary Flames at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for a second round pick and a conditional third round pick in 2018.
The trade gave the Blues what they were hoping for and officially established Jake Allen as their No. 1 man in net. Although the 26-year-old has only a few years of experience in the league, the Blues are confident that he’s their guy for the starting role.
No. 34 has a 57-26-7 all-time record in the regular season and a 3-5-0 record in the playoffs. Although statistics aren’t the best judge of a player’s abilities, it is alarming that Allen has such limited playoff experience.
However, he has played in fewer than 10 games in the postseason, making his record easier to digest.
The expectation that Allen will take the net for the Blues is a rather simple one to meet; however, it is a major decision being that goaltending influences outcomes in every game.
Although he might want to start every game, Allen will have to sit on the bench every so often so backup Carter Hutton can have a shot. Hutton has 76 games of NHL regular season experience for the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators.
His biggest role was in the 2013-14 season for the Predators when starting goaltender Pekka Rinne was injured. While his goaltending partner recovered, Hutton started 34 games for the Predators and played in 40. He finished the season with a 20-11-4 record.
Hutton and Allen will most likely not be splitting the season like Elliott and Allen did last year. The Blues are pretty set on having Allen as their go-to guy, so Hutton can anticipate being the back-up on most nights.
Still, backup goaltenders have an important place in the NHL. If Hutton can take advantage of his starting opportunities and find a way to earn the Blues a few points, he could very well be a vital player on the team.
St. Louis wants to know that they have a quality goaltending duo, not just a talented starter and just anyone as the backup. In the event that Allen were to be injured or sick, Hutton is the next man in line. That requires the ability to step up and the Blues are betting Hutton has that quality.
Big Saves at the Right Time
Ultimately, the Blues are expecting whichever goaltender in the blue paint will make big saves. Those are the game-changers that coaches look for because they rally a team together and provide a sense of camaraderie within the locker room.
That expectation is, fortunately, something that the Blues aren’t foreign to. Just last night when the Blues and Minnesota Wild were midway through the game, tied 1-1, Allen stopped a breakaway to prevent the Wild from taking momentum and the lead.
The Blues went on to win the game 3-2, making that save a definite turning point for the team.
Despite the season having just started, big saves are needed throughout the year for successful teams. The Gateway City deserves some exciting hockey and big wins, which are intertwined with big saves.
St. Louis, like any team, is better when they have their goaltenders trending in the right direction. If they can somehow harness Allen’s play from the first two wins on the year for the majority of the season ahead, they’ll be a much better team for it.