Jake Allen has gotten off to an exceptional start in the 2015-16 campaign.
With the opportunity to take over Brian Elliott as the starting goaltender, Allen has come out as one of the best goaltenders in the entire league. As a result, Allen has played in 12 of the St. Louis Blues’ 17 contests thus far in the year.
Not only has he played himself into Vezina Trophy talks early in the season, but he has already made two strong candidates for ‘Save of the Year.’
The 25-year old has become one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL, and that isn’t likely going to change anytime soon.
Vezina Calibre Start
Allen has been one of the best nearly a quarter of the way through the season, posting a 7-4-0 record with a 1.91 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. He has separated himself from Elliott and all but cemented himself as the Blues’ goaltender of the future. Could he possibly bring playoff success to St. Louis as well? As tough as it is for the Blues, he has the ability to carry the team on his shoulders, reminiscent of Carey Price.
At one point this past week, Allen had a consecutive save streak that was nearing 100, until a rare ugly start against the New York Rangers. All in all, Allen has been one of the most exciting players in the league to watch this year. He is so sound in the crease, using his positioning and lateral movements to make each save look easy. He has shown great rebound control, limiting scoring chances against, and even helping the Blues in their breakouts. His puck handling has also become more responsible this season.
But, not every save can be easy in the NHL. Sometimes a goaltender has to have the compete level to want to win so badly that he will throw everything he was taught in his career out the window to make a last-effort-type save. Allen has made himself very familiar with some on-the-goal-line saves already this season, submitting at least two plays into the save-of-the-year race.
A Highlight Each Night
Allen has made a couple saves this year that quite literally take your breath away. The types of saves that have commentators calling a goal scored, only to realize seconds later that the puck is somehow, miraculously, in Allen’s glove.
Allen Robs Kopitar’s One-Timer –
The first of Allen’s two most unbelievable saves from this year came on Nov. 3, while taking on the Los Angeles Kings. Less than four minutes into the game, the Kings were looking to take advantage of an early power-play opportunity. A shot from the point was kicked out by Allen to Marian Gaborik, who was sitting right in front of the crease. After a rebound chance, Gaborik and Dustin Brown got two or three shots off, all saved by Allen who was making himself large in the net while in the butterfly position.
The puck later ricocheted off of Brown’s skate and across the top of the crease to a wide open Anze Kopitar. He got off a solid one-timer as Allen was moving from his right to left, following to sliding puck. Allen read the play quickly and understood that he didn’t have time to get set and positioned properly for the shot, so he lunged himself towards the left side of the net. As Kopitar got the shot off, Allen was able to raise his glove, track the puck, and make an unreal save that had Kopitar saying, “Wow.”
Unfortunately for the Blues, they would go on to lose the game, with Allen allowing two goals on 33 shots. But it is this play that will be remembered and replayed all over hockey broadcasts throughout the entire season.
Allen Lays Out On the Line To Rob Dano –
Less than two weeks later, Allen was back at it. With the Blues taking on their arch rival Chicago Blackhawks, Allen knew he would have to be at his best for the Blues to win. With the score tied at two late in the second period, he would keep the Blues in it.
After a terrific play behind the net to strip Alex Pietrangelo of the puck, Ryan Garbutt was able to throw it in front of the net to a wide open Tanner Kero. Kero and Marko Dano were both alone on either side of Allen, but Kero decided to make a cross-crease pass to his teammate. Dano collected the puck and got off a strong wrist shot. Allen, who had gone down to bite on a potential shot, had zero chance of getting over to the puck within the split second it took to get a shot off.
So, he bailed on any goaltending techniques he had learned to at least take away the bottom of the net for Dano’s shot. He was able to get his glove over just as Dano was releasing the shot, and what happened next was pure larceny. The shot was hard enough to propel Allen’s glove backwards, and far enough into the net for cause to review it. But, after the review, the call on the ice stood, and Allen had given us yet another ridiculous save to marvel over.
Although Jake Allen’s save conserved a tie at two heading into the third period, the Blues would still go on to lose the game, 4-2, with Allen allowing three goals on 26 shots. Yet again, it will be Allen’s incredible save that is replayed throughout the entire year on every highlight reel.
Without a doubt, Allen has been one of the best goalies in the NHL in 2015-16, and the Blues will hope for that trend to continue as they search for a deeper playoff run than in recent years. There is a strong chance that Allen will be behind that run, whenever it comes along.
Do you think Jake Allen will be a future Vezina Trophy winner?
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Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at email@example.com or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.