Ken Hitchcock needs more from goaltender Jake Allen, saying the 26-year-old needs “to man up and get better” after he was pulled for the third time in five games.
After Jake Allen’s tough outing against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said it was up to everyone in the organization to either rally around the netminder or jump all over him. He voiced his support for the “tough go” Allen was having and said the team as a whole needed to be better.
Two days later, after surrendering three goals to the Los Angeles Kings on 15 shots, Allen again found himself yanked from a game in favor of backup Carter Hutton, and this time Hitchcock was much more direct with his criticism of his struggling starting netminder.
"This is really on the athlete," Hitchcock said. “There are times in your young career where you just have to say you've had enough and then you've got to go and turn it around the other way. So he's in a position where he's the guy that has to really take charge here. He's got to man up and get better, and we've got to get better in front of him.”
To Hitchcock’s credit in his management of Allen, he didn’t go so far as to absolutely pile on the 26-year-old netminder, continuing to point out that if the goaltending the Blues are getting at this point can’t keep them in games, it’s up to the entire team to ensure that they find some way to rely on something other than Allen or, in the instances he gets the call, Hutton.
As we pointed out Wednesday, though, goaltending continuing to be a sore spot in St. Louis has to have the Blues starting to get a bit concerned about what could come in the post-season if things don’t start to turn around. Though Allen will eventually have a good game or two, the fact that he’s been pulled three times in his past five outings, has a rapidly ballooning goals-against average and a save percentage that’s teetering perilously close to dipping below the .900 mark is concerning.
It’s not as if Hutton has been all that much better, either, despite the fact he keeps coming in as the relief netminder for Allen. Hutton has appeared in 16 games and played more than half the outing 12 times. Of those games, there has only been two occasions — Nov. 5 against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Tuesday’s game against the Bruins — in which Hutton has allowed one or fewer goals against. His 2.88 GAA and .894 SP are worse marks than Allen’s, but only by the narrowest of margins.
The Blues continue to have some of the best underlying numbers in the entire Western Conference, and with what we know about the correlation between strong advanced stats metrics and playoff success, it wouldn’t be beyond reason to pick St. Louis as a strong contender to go deep in the post-season.
That is if their goaltending can hold, and that hasn’t been the case as of late.
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