Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That’s exactly what the Blues have done with Jake Allen. His inconsistency and deflating goals against have been a problem in the past - and this season it hasn’t been any different.
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Insanity: The Jake Allen Story
It’s important to preface this by saying Jake Allen is not the only problem with this Blues team. He’s one of the many issues that management needs to resolve either later this season or in the upcoming offseason. Now that we got that out of the way - let’s move on:
Jake Allen became the team’s number one goaltender the day Brian Elliott was traded to the Calgary Flames. Deciding to go with the younger goaltender over the aging Brian Elliott was the right decision, and signing Allen to a four-year contract seemed to make a lot sense at the time. He was only 25 years-old, his performance from 2014-2016 was promising, and everything pointed to him being a legitimate number one goalie in the future. But here we are in the final days of 2018 and Jake Allen continues to prove that he’s not a number one goalie. He’s inconsistent, he’s a fundamental catastrophe, and he’s not mentally stable enough to carry a team to a championship. Below I have posed three questions that I find absolutely mind-boggling.
Why was Jake Allen the guy coming into this season?
I don’t blame management for making Allen the starter in 2016-17 or even 2017-18, but the decision to have him start this season is just inexcusable. He was coming off back-to-back seasons where he went into hibernation for a couple months midway through the year. From December to February in 2016-17, Jake Allen posted an .877 SV% and a 3.44 GAA, which included a six game stretch where he put up an .811 SV% and a 4.98 GAA. He was pulled four times in that span, while consistently allowing deflating goals at the worst possible times.
The next season (2017-18), Allen once again went into a shell in the second half of the season. From January 1st to the end of the season, Jake Allen posted an .895 SV%, a 3.08 GAA, which included a seven game stretch in February where he had a SV% of .838 and a GAA of 3.92. When the Blues needed him to step up in the final week of the season, he choked, posting an .882 SV%, which included the disaster game against Chicago where he allowed three softies in a dominant Blues performance. If Allen is just mediocre in that last week - the Blues make the playoffs with ease - but instead his mental instability cost the Blues a spot in the NHL’s second season.
Meanwhile, the Blues had a “backup” that was putting up sensational numbers. Carter Hutton had a .924 SV% and a 2.23 GAA in his two seasons with the Blues. He recorded 7 shutouts in just 47 starts, while having a winning percentage of 64%. Anyone who watched the team could tell that the players had more confidence and played with more of a spark when Hutton was in net. He may not have been as flashy as Allen, but he was a calming presence that would rarely have an off-night. Now, would Hutton have been the ideal goalie to try and win a championship with? No, but he would’ve been a much better option than Jake Allen.
Why didn’t this team acquire a solid back-up goalie?
This is the part that blows my mind the most. If management was too stubborn to move on from Jake Allen, then fine, but they at least needed to go out and get a proven above-average backup. Instead, they went out and got Chad Johnson who posted an .891 SV% and a 3.55 GAA the previous season with the Sabres. Sure he had some impressive stretches with Calgary in the 2016-17 season, but Johnson was an obvious downgrade from Carter Hutton. Fast forward to December of 2018, and Johnson is waived due to a few bad starts. Now the Blues have two inexperienced goalies (Binnington & Fitzpatrick) to backup their fragile number one goaltender. It’s insane, it’s inexcusable, and it just shows the pigheaded thought process of this Blues management.
Why do people refuse to admit he’s a problem?
It’s not just management that seems to be convinced Jake Allen is a legitimate number one goalie, but it’s the entire narrative surrounding the organization. I understand that broadcasters are paid to give the fans hope and make things more positive, but their refusal to admit he’s a problem is astounding. His .900 SV% and his 3.10 GAA both rank 23rd among starters this season. People will point to the defensive lapses being the reason for his poor stats, which is partially true, but it hasn’t been as bad as many people make it seem. According to Corsicahockey, Allen has faced the 14th most high-danger chances per 60 minutes among starters. This isn’t great, but Jake Allen has been given better chances to succeed than many other goalies in the league.
Recently, all the talk on the broadcasts and on social media is how Jake Allen is “red-hot”, but when you really look at things, that’s just simply not true. Five of Jake Allen’s last nine starts have been poor performances (VAN, FLA, CGY, @ VAN, PIT). He’s been pulled in 3 of those games, while posting a SV% of .804 and a GAA of 5.54. People will again point the defense as a reason for Allen’s poor play, but in his five outings he’s only faced an average of 4.8 high-danger shots per game. To put that in perspective, the league average is almost 7 high-danger shots against per game. Allen’s inconsistency is as bad, if not worse than it’s ever been, yet all the talk is about how he’s “found his game”.
Nobody hesitates to talk about the leadership struggles, the defensive struggles, and the offense struggles, but when it comes to the goaltending struggles people back-off. Are they scared that any negative press will cause Allen to cry, or are they just in denial that he’s a serious problem that needs to be fixed? I’m fully aware that the Blues don’t have any better options than Jake Allen right now - it’s the fact that they put themselves in this position that is so pathetic. This team has plenty of things that need fixing, and in my opinion it starts with stopping the insanity between the pipes.
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