The St. Louis Blues were one of the most active NHL teams
during the offseason with several player moves under their belt. However, once
the season faces off in October the success of those transactions will
basically depend on how good their goaltending is. This means there will be a
lot of pressure on the shoulders of number one netminder Jake Allen. General
manager Doug Armstrong did a fine job of addressing his team's needs after missing
the playoffs last year, but they won't mean much unless Allen is at his best.
The Blues made a big splash in the free agency market by
signing centre Tyler Bozak from the Toronto Maple Leafs, left-winger David
Perron from the Vegas Golden Knights and left-winger Patrick Maroon from the
New Jersey Devils. The 32-year-old Bozak has scored 365 points in 594 career
games while the 30-year-old Perron has 444 points in 722 contests and the
30-year-old Maroon has chipped in with 178 points in 375 outings. Perron
previously played for the Blues for seven seasons in two different stints and
Maroon was born in St. Louis.
The biggest move of all though was the acquisition of centre
Ryan O’Reilly in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres. The 27-year-old O'Reilly is
the top faceoff man in the league and has accumulated 422 points in 651 games.
The Blues gave up Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, and a
first-round draft pick in 2019 and second-rounder in 2021 to get him, but they
now have a legitimate two-way first-line centre. Of course, they were in the
hunt for a middleman ever since Paul Stastny was dealt to Winnipeg at last
year's trade deadline for a first and fourth-round draft pick and forward Erik
The Central Division Blues definitely look strong enough to
challenge for a playoff spot in the Western Conference as they already had some
excellent scoring depth with the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn
and Jaden Schwartz. In fact, they appear to be one of the top teams in the
conference as they're also solid on the blue line with Alex Pietrangelo, Colton
Parayko, Vince Dunn, Joel Edmundson and Jay Bouwmeester. Therefore, the only
question mark concerning the squad in 2018/19 is between the posts.
The 28-year-old Allen of Fredericton, New Brunswick was
originally drafted by the Blues with the 34th overall pick back in 2008 and will be entering his sixth season with the club.
He's racked up a record of 117-71-15 in 219 games with a 91.3 save percentage
and 2.47 goals-against average along with 16 shutouts. He's also 9-10 in 22
playoff contests with a 92.2 save percentage and 2.10 GAA. Allen played 15, 37
and 47 games in his first three seasons as he shared the workload with former
teammate Brian Elliott. His workload then increased to 61 and 58 games as
Elliot left and Carter Hutton took over as the backup. Hutton has since moved
to Buffalo where he signed as a free agent this summer.
Some critics feel Allen has struggled over the past couple
of seasons since becoming the team's number one starter and at one time he was
benched when his save percentage dipped down to 89.7. He turned things around
though and lost just eight times over his final 27 games of the 2016/17
campaign. The Blues made the playoffs that year and Allen posted a 93.5 save
percentage in the postseason. He was inconsistent in the crease last season
however and Hutton ended up playing in 32 games and was arguably the better
goalie. Allen finished the season with a 2.75 GAA and 90.6 save percentage in
56 games with just one shutout.
Allen needs to improve on those numbers in 2018/19 if the Blues are to return
to the postseason. The team may score quite a few more goals due to the
strengthening of the roster, but they won't win games unless Allen can regain
his best form. His numbers since joining the league have basically been at the
league-average level, which isn't bad by any means. But the Blues will need
Allen to provide above average goaltending if their recent acquisitions are
going to help the club get back in the playoffs.
Labels: Ian Palmer