Netminder's positive attitude during ups, downs in career helping
veteran persevere again as road warrior; 1-2 punch with Binnington rock-solid
CHICAGO -- Jake Allen knows that this hot streak can go the other way at any time.
But he'll do his best to maintain where he's at how, and that's on the hot side of it, after a 4-0 shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday at United Center, the 20th of his NHL career which tied him for second in franchise history with Jaroslav Halak.
Allen's rise from the start of the season is giving the Blues (18-5-6) one of the best, if not the best, goalie tandems in the league.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Jake Allen (left) makes one of his 38 saves on Chicago's Jonathan Toews on
Monday in a 4-0 Blues victory at United Center, Allen's 20th career shutout.
But after backstopping all 38 Chicago shots, including 17 in the third period, Allen is 5-0-2 on the road this season with a 2.11 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. Going back 13 regular-season road games, Allen is 7-1-5 with a 2.04 GAA and .935 save percentage.
His teammates see the Allen that was so incredibly good against the Minnesota Wild in the the 2017 first round of the playoffs, one in which helped the Blues stun Minnesota in a five-game series win and again in the second round against the Nashville Predators.
It was written in this space after a disheartening 5-2 home loss to Montreal on Oct. 19 that Allen's teammates lack confidence when he's not going well. But like a true pro, Allen took the blame for the loss after a hiccup moment allowing a goal that shouldn't have gone in. Teammates appreciate that, and they appreciate even more, and show it with the utmost confidence, when the player himself is playing with confidence.
"Yeah, he's dialed in," Blues forward Jaden Schwartz said of Allen. "He's in the zone, making huge saves, timely saves for us. We know how good of a goalie he is.
"Every player, every goalie has a rough few months or an off year in their career, and he's a guy that just continues to work and continues ... even when he's not playing, he comes to the rink and he's working and he's getting better. Yeah, you can see how good of a goalie he is, and you can tell he's confident right now."
Yes, Allen is confident, and it was on full display silencing the United Center crowd, and for that matter, aside from an 18-second stretch at American Airlines Center last Friday against Dallas when the game was tied 1-1, Allen silenced that crowd. He silenced the crowd in Edmonton too. It's what a goalie does, one that's thriving on the road, and one that's helping his team win again on a nightly basis.
"Yes and no. A lot of people don't believe me when I say it, but I find it really tough to get into the crowd," Allen said. "I'm sort of in my own mindset during the game. For me, the crowd doesn't really do a whole lot. It's just ironic how this whole situation's played out.
"I don't know (about feeling dialed in). I probably said it a couple weeks ago, I'm trying to get better every single time for me right now. That was my goal the first couple games of the year. I sat down and I said, 'Let's try to get better every single time.' It starts at that point. Now I'm getting some games and closer to consecutive days gets you a little more in the groove. I'm just trying to give the boys a chance, and guys are playing great hockey in front of me."
Countless times during his career, more so in the past couple seasons, Blues fans have been so divided on Allen. They either love him or have a dislike for him. Those that have loved him remember the guy that began his career with such promise and one that can display that dominant No. 1 form at any time. And then there are those that saw the struggles in recent seasons, one that saw Jordan Binnington come in and supplant him as the No. 1 netminder last season and help the Blues to their first-ever Stanley Cup. The season before, Carter Hutton challenged him for the cage, and Brian Elliott before that.
But what has not been forgotten is that Allen, 29, took his role as the backup last in stride, like a guy that has the team in mind even though from a personal standpoint, wants to be the guy, but is willing to do whatever it takes.
The Blues were so high on Allen at one point, general manager Doug Armstrong rewarded him with a four-year, $17.4 million contract on July 1, 2016. There are days when people felt like he's earned it, and there are those that have felt like he hasn't.
Whatever the feelings are, one thing Allen has done is continue to drive himself to be at his best, even though there are nights when nothing would go right, but Allen has always driven himself to do what's best for the Blues, and that's one of the reasons why teammates love him.
"Yeah, he's a mentally tough kid," Schwartz said. "He doesn't give up on himself obviously. It's never easy when you have a tough week or two. It's never easy mentally and he's done a great job of just continuing to work, believing in himself and he knows we've got all the belief in him. So, I think it's just his work ethic, working with Davie (Alexander) and Binner, they do a great job everyday and you can just tell when a guy is focused - just the way that he prepares -- that he's ready to keep building, and I think he's got that mojo back."
Monday's game is a perfect example of Allen at his best. Being positionally and fundamentally sound, being square to shooters, coming out to challenge shooters and not back himself into the blue paint, control rebounds, use his teammates effectively and make the saves he isn't expected to make.
That's when teammates really have your back.
"I'm just trying to keep the game as simple as I can," Allen said. "I think that's when I'm at my best, and if I go back and look at previous years in the good hockey I'm playing, usually it means that I'm in the right spot and things are going my way and I'm doing the right things. I think it's just feeling pretty confident out there.
"Our 'D' has been playing unbelievable. I don't really know how to describe it. Probably the best I've played behind my 10 years as a Blue, even last year. Guys are just doing a helluva a job, and that goes for forwards as well, tracking, sticks, pucks, just being in the right areas at the right time. Everyone's committed right now. As you guys watch upstairs, you're not oohing and ahhing all the time. It sometimes might be boring hockey, but that's the way we play and that's the way we won last year and continue to have success."
Some questioned why the Blues went with Allen last Friday in a key divisional game at Dallas and why they'd go back to him at Chicago in another divisional game. It's a perfect example of the Blues' confidence in him.
"Yeah he has been good for quite awhile now," Blues coach Craig Berube said "I mean the last three, four, five games, he has been solid.
"Down the stretch (last year), he played quite a bit I thought. We needed him. There was quite a rotation there, but playoffs are playoffs. ... Jake is a real good pro and a hard-working guy and we need him. We are glad he’s here. I think I’ve told you guys I don’t know how many times, but both goalies are very important. They are going to play."
Allen never sulked when Binnington came on and crashed the party, burst onto the NHL scene and rolled his swag at all comers.
"I've always rolled with the punches whatever came my way, good or bad," Allen said. "I still know there's going to be a lot of those the rest of my career. Obviously last year, be the best whatever I can be. If I was a support, if I had to get in the net, support Binner, whatever it is. It's the same mentality I came in with this year. Obviously I knew I was coming in with a different role. I've tried to embrace it as much as possible and I told myself again just try to get better all the time and be ready for your starts and go from there. It's a long season, and I think last year, you see every year you're going to need both guys. I'm here for the boys, whatever they need.
"... Me and Binner get along great. We always have ever since he was drafted as a young kid and I was here a couple years older. We just feed off each other. I think I've learned a lot of things from him and hopefully he's learned some things from me. There's no competition, we're all in this together. You're just going out there and trying to play your best every night. He's been the best goalie in the league this whole season. I don't think there's any question about that. He hasn't had any hangover at all. He's proven himself now. He's an elite goalie and I'm trying to be there with him and just give the boys a chance because I know we have a helluva team again."
As for catching Halak, it's a feather in Allen's cap.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues goalie Jake Allen tied Jaroslav Halak with his 20th shutout in Blues
history after stopping 38 shots in a 4-0 win at Chicago on Monday.
"Another stat I didn't really know. Cool," Allen said. "To get into the 20's now, we'll see if I can get to 30 at some point in my career. Hopefully a few more to come in the future, but it's a credit to not just me, but a lot of boys in front of me doing a lot of hard work. I still remember my first shutout against Phoenix, 2012 or 13, it's come a long way."
Now, can he catch Brian Elliott's franchise record of 25 shutouts, Allen smiled.
"We'll see, we'll see if I can get him," Allen said. "Hopefully he doesn't re-sign here and add some more on. I think it could be a possibility.
"You have to look at it, it's a tough schedule. Binner needs his breaks, I need games and there's a lot of back-to-backs. We go one-and-one nowadays. It's just the way it is. We were in a schedule the last couple weeks with a lot of holidays and a lot of travel, a lot of work. There's rest needed and when I'm called upon, that's my job to go in there and give the boys a chance. Just got to keep doing that for now."
What Allen also did was put a halt to Blackhawks star Patrick Kane's 15-game point streak (11 goals, 13 assists), the longest in the NHL this season.