Jake Allen pitched the only shutout of the night on Sunday, and in the process, he made some franchise history for the St. Louis Blues. Meanwhile, Martin Brodeur set some even more significant history on this date in 1999. Plus, we’ll look at the goaltending week in review.
Allen Joins Blues History
The relationship between Allen and the Blues has been strained at times. But this season, he has been one of the better backups in the NHL. In fact, he is 12th in the league in save percentage (SV%) above expected (.222) and he leads the league in high danger SV% (.897), the SV% he shows on high danger chances against (HDCA). It has been an extraordinary bounce-back season for the longtime Blues netminder.
Sunday’s game was a clinic in precisely those attributes that have served him so well this season. Facing the Chicago Blackhawks on the road on International Women’s Day, Allen stepped into the crease and blocked all 29 Blackhawks shots. The 2-0 victory, fueled by goals from Robert Bortuzzo and Alex Pietrangelo, cemented a season series sweep for the Blues, the first such sweep of the Blackhawks in franchise history.
The Blackhawks mustered a total of 10 high danger chances (HDCF), and 2.27 expected goals (xG), basically even with the Blues in both categories. But Allen gave his team the edge. The shutout was his 21st, moving Allen out of a tie with Jaroslav Halak and into second place in the Blues’ all-time shutout record book. He trails only Brian Elliott, who has 25. After the game, head coach Craig Berube was quick to praise his goaltender.
His game was excellent. I thought he was solid all game. Really active in there, playing pucks, fighting through screens… and obviously some big saves that he had to make. Timely saves are huge and he made some.Craig Berube praises Jake Allen
The Blues play the Florida Panthers on Monday night. Given the back-to-back games, it seems unlikely that Allen will get the start. He might play on Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks, as he excels on the road. But that game is a makeup of the game in which Jay Bouwmeester collapsed, and as a result, will start 1-1. It would be an interesting statistical anomaly if Allen stepped in and pitched a shutout for 60 minutes (as the game will be played for a full three periods) even though the Ducks would finish with a goal on the scoreboard.
Brodeur Makes History
Martin Brodeur set many records in his career. But on this day in 1999, he set one of his first. On Mar. 9, in a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Steel City, Brodeur recorded his 30th win of the season. That was significant because he became the first goaltender in the history of the NHL to win 30 games or more in four consecutive seasons.
That was an impressive start to Brodeur’s young career. Little did anyone know then that he would go on to record 30-plus wins in each of his next eight seasons as well, a record that still stands to this day. In fact, in all but the first of those 12 seasons, Brodeur recorded 35-plus wins, also an NHL record.
Along with his three Stanley Cups, four Vezina Trophies, five Jennings Trophies, and many other league records, it was a fairly impressive career, well-deserving of the Hockey Hall of Fame election he received in 2018.
Week in Review
Each week, we look at who’s hot, who’s not, and the backup of the week. Here are the goalies you need to hear about right now.
Juuse Saros is having an impressive month of March for the Nashville Predators. He’s played four games, tied with Alex Stalock for the most of any goalie. He has incredible numbers as well, with a .972 SV% and a 0.96 goals-against average (GAA). In that time, he has two shutouts as well.
Mikko Koskinen of the Edmonton Oilers has also performed well. In his three games, he’s allowed only two goals, and he has a .980 SV% and a 0.82 GAA. And of course, there’s Connor Hellebuyck, an arguable candidate for both the Hart and Vezina Trophies, who is having a remarkable season. He’s saved 54-of-55 shots in his last two games, good for a 0.50 GAA and a .982 SV%.
Matt Murray of the Penguins has been struggling all season, and the spring weather isn’t helping him any. He’s got a SV% of .881 and a 3.41 GAA. Despite his many starts, Stalock has also struggled, as he’s allowed 13 goals on 144 shots against, the most faced by any goalie this month. And on the other end of the Nashville spectrum, Pekka Rinne started one disastrous game this month and still has a .742 SV%.
Backup of the Week
Several goaltenders deserve consideration for backup of the week. There’s Allen, whose strong performance tonight approached a franchise record. Saros is still viewed by many as the backup in Nashville, although that argument is dwindling. But we’ll give the honors to the feel-good story of the week: Cory Schneider of the Jersey Devils.
Once a starter, Schneider’s career seemed to be in jeopardy when the Devils waived him earlier this season. But after they traded Louis Domingue to the Vancouver Canucks at the deadline, the veteran got a second chance at an NHL life.
Since his return, Schneider has looked like his old self. He’s played four games in total, including two in the last week. He’s 3-0-1 in total, with a .952 SV% in that time. He’s won both games this week, including a shutout against the Ducks and a streak-ending victory over the Blues where he made 31 saves on 33 shots. He seems to be in peak form, which is a positive story both for the Devils and the league, and he deserves these honors this week.
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Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.