Ken Hitchcock is sticking with “the hot hand” down the stretch. Jake Allen gets the nod for Tuesday’s pivotal showdown with the Winnipeg Jets… and will likely be the guy for the remaining games against Chicago and Dallas.
This also means (obviously) Brian Elliot has been benched. And he’s not happy about it. No doubt, you would be, too?
Brian Elliot has been the predominant starting goalie for the Blues this season sharing a healthy amount of games with the younger Allen. The veteran Elliot is nothing if not inconsistent; you can see the franchise leader in shutouts one night and he could follow it up with a dud like we saw last Friday Night in Dallas where he allowed five goals in two periods.
The Blues cling to a one point lead in the Central Division with three games to go against the Winnipeg Jets, Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars. Each of these three clubs has thrown absolutely everthing at the Blues in each meeting this year. Elliot just beat the Stars in Dallas this past Friday Night, giving up five goals in the process. Obviously, you’ll take the win and points any way you can get them this late in the season. But you need more and expect more from your starting netminder.
In his last 13 starts for the Blues, Jake Allen has posted a 10-1-2 record with a GAA under two. Mid season, this isn’t a bad problem to have. With three games to go and a division title with significant playoff positioning in the balance, it’s simply a problem. The Blues cannot line up on April 15th for game one of their first round playoff series and not know which of their goalies is starting for them. With Hitchcock coming out Monday going all in with Allen, it began to cause some unrest in the locker room. Hitch has been in this situation before and is used to these difficult decisions. In his estimation, however, it’s tougher for Elliot to deal with than Hitchcock.
Courtesy Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford), St. Louis Post Dispatch
Maybe for him, but not for me. I’ve got to do what’s best for the hockey club… and what’s best for the hockey club is whoever’s playing the best gets to play. That’s just the way it is.”
Brian Elliot was slightly less than pleased at the news.
“There’s an inside voice and an outside voice, so … I have my own feelings, so I’ll keep them to myself.”
Comments like this can cause unrest in the clubhouse, sometimes forcing players to take sides. I don’t need to tell you, this quote from Elliot could not come at a worse time. It can be a significant distraction if one or more players are unhappy. It could lead to even more substantial problems heading into the post season. This is the last thing a team like the Blues needs; a club trying to prove it belongs with the elite in the NHL. This club has been mired in mediocrity for the majority of its existence, managing just two appearances in the conference finals since 1970.
Hot goalies can be the x-factor in getting team to the promised land. Allen is heating up at the perfect time. Not too soon before the post season begins. Hitchcock is hoping Allen rides that momentum right into the first round.
“We see a guy that is hot, that’s feeling it, so you ride it out. You’re as good as your last game when you get this deep into season”
There is some damning evidence against Jake Allen heading into the playoffs. ZERO NHL post season experience. That is, if you discount the one minute he appeared in 2012 Playoffs. It’s worth noting, however, Allen has slightly better numbers at home. He has solid numbers across the board, but has an 11-3-1 record at Scottrade Center with an admirable 2.29 GAA. The Blues play their final three regular season games at home. Their first test Tuesday Night against Winnipeg is arguably the most important game of the season for both teams as the Jets fight to hang onto the final playoff spot in the West. St. Louis is trying to hold off Chicago and Nashville, both in action Tuesday Night.