J Allen

File this comment in the obvious department — the Blues are desperate for a win.

Going 0-4-1 in their last five games, they’re also desperate for some better goaltending. Jaroslav Halak re-aggravated a tender groin a few days ago, and Brian Elliott has given up almost five goals per game since taking over the crease.

Enter 22-year-old Jake Allen, a goalie who has played much better for Peoria than the stats show.

Photo Copyright: Angela Vincent Photography

He’s only 12-16-2 with a 2.94 goals-against average and .903 save percentage, but in his last four games, he’s 3-1-0 with 106 saves on 114 shots (.929 SV%). That includes his second shutout of the season, a 27-save effort over the Chicago Wolves back on January 23.

Last season, Allen was named the starter for the Western Conference at the 2011 AHL All-Star Game. This came after he started his pro career 4-0-0 and was named the AHL Goalie of the Month in November (2011).

Allen’s junior career was also very successful. He was named the 2010 Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Year and earned the Jacques Plante Memorial Trophy for having the best GAA in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Despite the tremendous success he had in juniors, his inability to lead Team Canada to a Gold Medal in the World Juniors led many to believe he was the type of goalie that struggled under pressure.

Pressure comes in all shapes and sizes, however, so tonight Allen has a chance to prove that pressure is something he knows how to overcome.

FIRST PERIOD

17:43 – Tatar had great patience with the puck to Allen’s left side after the Red Wings won a faceoff, and he went forehand-backhand-upper shelf on Allen to give Detroit a 1-0 lead. Allen bit hard on the forehand deke, so when Tatar quickly turned the wrists over to go to his backhand, Allen’s weight was pulling his chest out of position and away from being square to the puck. This was a very nice move by Tatar, a tough mishandle by Pietrangelo, and really tough scoring opportunity for Allen to face so early in the game.

12:07 – Miller scored to make the score 2-0. This is what you call a “VHS fail” for a goalie. VHS stands for Vertical-Horizontal Stance, and it occurs when a goalie has one knee down with the pad along the ice (horizontal), then the leg closest to the post is upright (vertical). Allen executed this save selection at the wrong time, as Miller slipped the puck between the post and Allen’s left skate. The puck slid along the goal line and was punched home by Miller, who followed his shot. This was a weak goal, cut and dry, and not acceptable at any level, or in any situation.

8:12 – Kronwall fired a one-timer from Allen’s left (right faceoff circle) off the left post. The shot beat Allen clean to the glove side, but he was the beneficiary of some luck as the shot went off the post.

7:16 – Andersson fired a shot from the right side of the right faceoff circle, and Allen caught and freezed it by bringing the glove across his body.

6:34 – Allen made a good save pushing to his left, going into the butterfly, and steering away a hard one-timer by Zetterberg. The puck went off his right pad and directed to the right boards, so it was a big rebound, but placed nicely.

4:39 – Berglund scored a short-handed goal on a one-timer after a great individual effort and pass by Oshie.

3:53 – Allen made a good butterfly save by sealing the ice on a re-direct from the left side by Filppula that came through traffic (Cleary), but the rebound leaked out into the slot. The play ended with a penalty to the Blues, giving the Red Wings a late PP in the period.

2:43 – Allen made a timely blocker save on a one-timer by Cleary. Allen wasn’t fully aware of this secondary threat, but was able to rotate his upper body in time to locate the puck and lean into the shot, getting a piece of it with the blocker. It wasn’t a smooth save by any means, but a big one to help kill off the penalty. He didn’t slide through and square up to the one-timer, but because he was able to rotate and locate, he used a shoulder lean and made the save despite being slightly off-balanced.

:13 – Allen made a good save by absorbing a low shot that Zetterberg threw on goal from the right side, which was then deflected through traffic and re-directed on goal by Brunner. Allen was square to the re-direct and sealed the ice without allowing a rebound. That was an important save to help sustain his confidence heading into the second period.

Allen finished with nine saves on 11 shots in the first period and was not very impressive. No matter how much pressure a goalie faces in his first NHL start, the goal scored by Miller is unacceptable and weak. He did make up for it with a few timely saves on the PK, but he put himself in a hole.

The goal by Tatar was a real nice move and Allen can’t be faulted for that one.

SECOND PERIOD

19:18 – Allen made a good right pad save through traffic on a low shot from Abdelkader that was just slightly tipped by Zetterberg, who was gliding through the low slot area. He gave up a rebound, but the initial stop was very sharp.

12:48 – Tarasenko scored on the PP to tie the game, 2-2. The Blues were clearly were skating much better in this second period, limiting Detroit to just one shot in this period to this point.

11:03 – Stewart gave the Blues a 3-2 lead. To this point, Detroit still only had one shot on goal in the second period, and that forced coach Babcock to burn his timeout.

8:33 – Allen made a good glove save on Andersson’s wrist shot from the right faceoff dot. He was well positioned, square, and aggressive with his depth, as his knees were outside the crease. Knowing that Jake’s glove has been a bit of an issue this season, it was a confidence-boosting save considering he had been sitting around for over 10 minutes.

7:21 – A tough scramble for Allen led to the game-tying goal by Datsyuk. Reviewing this goal presented a lot of different technical discussions. For me, I was most interested in Allen’s stick side arm placement. He placed the arm and elbow inside the post, but if he wraps the arm around the post, he creates a seal earlier. It also makes his body a tad bit bigger. By keeping the elbow and arm inside the post as he scrambled to recover, it created some space for the puck to leak through. The goal cam replay showed Datsyuk’s shot banking off the outside of the glove and in, so while it’s another magical play by Datsyuk, this is a play where wrapping the arm around the post would have likely saved a goal. But hindsight is always 20-20, and that’s clearly a tough scramble for Allen to manage. It’s easy to call that a weak goal, but he had to recover, locate puck, stay balanced, and then seal the post while backpedaling.

Allen only faced five shots in the second period. I did like the save he made on Andersson, but I am still not overly impressed with his effort in this game. He has faced some tough scoring chances, but this is what playing in the NHL is all about. I want to see him battle and stay poised in the third period, and all you can ask for is that he gives the Blues a chance to win this game. Through two periods, he has done that.

THIRD PERIOD

13:50 – Allen didn’t face a shot in the first 6:10 of the third period, then had to face a REd Wings power play. Detroit didn’t even get a shot on goal on that man advantage, either.

10:00 – The Red Wings still didn’t have a shot on goal in this period by the midway point.

8:03 – Allen challenged Datsyuk nicely on a 2-on-1 opportunity. It appeared that the puck deflected off the blocker, but the replay showed that the puck was deflected wide by the d-man’s stick. This was a poised and positionally sound situations for Allen despite the fact the shot didn’t end up on goal.

5:00 – Amazingly, the Red Wings still didn’t have a shot on goal in the third period.

1:45 – Abdelkader finally got Detroit’s first shot on goal in the third by coming off the low boards and putting a low wrist shot on goal while falling down. Allen was square to the puck and directed the rebound towards the left boards, so it was a good save, and one that was tougher than it looked due to the extended period of inactivity.

Regulation ended with the game tied 3-3. Allen made 14 saves on 17 shots.

OVERTIME

4:30 – Allen flexed the left pad and makes a good save on a shot by Kronwall that came through traffic. The rebound was there for Brunner to slam home, but the puck was directed away from the stick and towards the boards.

4:08 – Steen crashed the net and put a rebound home to win the game in OT, 4-3.

Allen won his first NHL start by stopping 15 of 18 shots.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It certainly wasn’t a portrait, but Allen had a few timely saves in tonight’s game to get the Blues what they desperately needed — a win. That’s really all that matters in a choppy and sloppy game like this, so he was instantly rewarded by being named the starter for St. Louis’ next game on Friday in Calgary.

I give credit to Allen for battling through the extensive stretches without any action. Having to sit there and know that two of the three goals he gave up were considered as the “weak” variety only makes things tougher, but the save he made in overtime was key, as was a few saves in the first and second period.

Allen may not be  the biggest or the quickest top goalie prospect out there right now, but he certainly has the potential to be a very solid NHL goaltender. Just like he did tonight, he has battled through some team defense issues in Peoria and rough personal outings, but he keeps on trucking.

That’s all part of the development process. You can’t win consistently at the highest levels until you learn how to lose, so even if tonight’s win wasn’t pretty, if he gets the two points, he’s gaining confidence and improving his long-term value.

Friday’s game will be another crucial opportunity for him to prove he can handle the pressure. Did tonight change my opinion? To be honest…not much. But it’s only one game, and there will certainly be more in a Blues uniform as time goes on.

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