There are arguments to both sides of the Blues trading Brian Elliot during the summer. He was in the last year of his contract, and if he matched his performance with his entire Blues career he was going to get awfully expensive. The Blues have wanted to give Jake Allen the job for a few years, or more to the point they wanted Allen to take it, and no better way than simply tossing him in the deep end.
On the other side, the Blues had just made a trip to the Conference Final, which might as well have been Mars for them considering their recent history, and a lot of that was on the back of Elliot’s play last spring. The Blues aren’t playing for the future. This is their window, and it isn’t getting any wider. Both Shattenkirk and Parayko are due large raises after the season and they’re both not going to get it from the Blues. So there was serious thought they should go for it with everything this year.
How’s it all going for Allen? Not great, Bob.
Sitting in third place, with a goal-difference of exactly even is not where they had this drawn up. There are other issues, bigger issues, with the Blues than their goaltending. They only have one front-line scorer in Tarasenko, and seem intent on proving that Paul Stastny can’t be a #1 center anymore while Jori Lehtera can. Jabe O’Meester can barely move yet he’s still taking top pairing minutes with the slightly overrated Alex OrangeJello.
But Allen hasn’t been up to Elliot’s standards yet, and considering the Blues don’t score much they need that. Allen has a .907 SV% overall, which is barely keeping its head above “sucks.” His even-strength save-percentage is .916, which you’d have to really stretch to call middling.
Allen’s problems basically stem from not making the save he shouldn’t make, or THE BIG SAVE as those in the circles like to call it. On high-danger chances, Allen’s SV% is .792. Contrast that with Corey Crawford’s .893, or Dubnyk’s .901, you see the issue.
And the thing is, it’s not that hard, relatively speaking, to be the Blues’ goalie. Ok, there’s no margin for error given the scoring woes, but this is still one of the league’s best defensive outfits. They’re top five in attempts against per 60, shots against per 60, and scoring chances against per 60. The difference in playing for them and not is how badly Elliot has struggled away from them this year. Allen doesn’t see that many high-danger chances against.
It is unlikely that the Blues are going to find another scorer, especially a center at the trade deadline. Martin Hanzal is not really an answer. If the Stars admit their situation, there would be more dignity in it, maybe they have some answers? (though the thought of Patrick Sharp in St. Louis is going to kill a good portion of Hawks fans). Whatever is out there isn’t a difference maker unless Tavares demands out of Brooklyn or something like it.
So the Blues need Allen to approach Elliot’s numbers of the past. Six points behind the Hawks, even with just 30 games gone or so, is actually a pretty big gap (though one they’d made up before). Whatever path they take, you feel that the I-55 derby is a pretty sure bet for the third time in four seasons. To win again, Allen would have to outplay Crawford as Elliot did last year.
Has Allen shown that capability? Not really. His best save-percentage in the NHL is .920, which is good but these days isn’t top tier anymore (which is really amazing). Allen had one really good season in the AHL, though that’s always tough to judge given the vagaries of that league. But that was just last year, which was an improvement on the season before. The Blues had better pray that keeps going up, or Vlad Tarasenko is going to be playing out his prime in the abyss.