Sunday, November 8, 2015

Allen's play has the makings of a No. 1 goalie

Blues netminder playing best hockey of his 
career in recent games, looks to build off strong work

ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock was asked after a 4-0 victory Saturday about the confidence goalie Jake Allen is displaying. The Blues' coach had none of it.

"I'm just happy he's playing well," Hitchcock said.

Playing well would be putting it mildly.

Towards the end of training camp, Hitchcock was hoping to have an idea by the end of October if Allen or Brian Elliott would emerge as the go-to guy moving forward, the guy that would get the majority of the games moving forward.

Judging by Allen's recent play, it's become a runaway decision, and it's Allen's job to keep moving forward.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Goalie Jake Allen has been making a lot of saves for the Blues lately, and
they're quite alright with that. 

Allen, who kicked out a career-high 45 shots Saturday, has not allowed a goal since the first shot he saw in relief of Elliott Wednesday, a string of 72 consecutive shots. He's 5-1-0 his past six appearances with a 1.03 goals-against average and ridiculous .968 save percentage.

Allen is 6-3-0 on the season with a 1.71 GAA and .945 save percentage. His confidence is rising with each appearance, but judging by his ever-present calm demeanor, one wouldn't know it.

"I feel that since the start of last year, my game's getting better," Allen said. "I still have a long way's to go. I want to be one of the best (but) I'm still early in my career. I'm getting better each day. My practice habits have gotten a lot better this year. I feel like I've been practicing harder. Hopefully it translates into games."

Asked what Allen has been doing right, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo answered without hesitation.

"Everything," said Pietrangelo, who credited Allen for a heads-up play that led to his power play goal and a 2-0 lead in the third period Saturday. "He's always in the right spot and makes them look easy. 

"If you roll back before we scored my goal, he makes that breakout pass to me; it's a rolling puck. He's got a goalie stick, but it comes flat on my tape and we're in the zone. We set up the power play and then we score. He can move the puck, he's been saving the puck, communicates. He's done everything we've needed him to."

Allen did everything the Blues needed Saturday when the game was on the line and the Blues holding a 1-0 lead, including make five saves during a crucial 5-on-3 Nashville man advantage that lasted 1 minute, 20 seconds.

"It almost gives the entire team a little bit of a boost, like, 'Come on, pick it up and help him out a little bit,'" defenseman Colton Parayko said. "He's pretty sound. He makes the saves he has to." 

Watching Allen recently, he's been perched at the top of the circles whisking away each puck thrown in his direction. No juicy rebounds, control at its best, seeing pucks and even coming up with the acrobatic pilfer when needed.

Challenging shooters, taking position at the top of the crease is when Allen is at his best.

"I felt I've been doing that all year," Allen said. "Not so much at the start of the year but it was after that (season-opening) road trip. 

"I told myself I needed to get back to that a little bit more. You don't want to over-challenge. Then you get caught out of position scrambling. You've got to understand whether to be aggressive or not to be."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Goalie Jake Allen (34) made a career-best 45 saves in the Blues' 4-0 win
at Nashville on Saturday.

Allen's even-keeled demeanor has allowed him to move past the disappointment of last season's first-round Stanley Cup Playoff defeat to the Minnesota Wild. More times than now, those learning experiences can benefit in the long run depending on how the player embraces the end result. 

Hitchcock hasn't officially signaled Allen as his No. 1 guy, but actions speak loudly, and Allen's actions are soaring these days.

"Jake's been stellar," Hitchcock said.

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