Safe to say nobody predicted this.
With the St. Louis facing what GM Doug Armstrong is calling a ‘critical’ point of the season, the Blues will start 22-year-old rookie netminder Jake Allen against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday.
Allen, recalled from AHL Peoria late Tuesday night, has just a 3-1 record this year. But that won’t prevent him from jumping ahead of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott — who won the Jennings Trophy last year for lowest goals-against average — in the pecking order.
“I think it’s certainly a short season now, we’re in a very critical point and our goaltending to this point in the year hasn’t been to the standard that’s necessary to consistently win games,” Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Jake came up and played very well when he was here, and the team responded by playing very well in front of him.”
While the Allen move only partially reflects it, it’s clear the Blues are a desperate team right now.
Wildly inconsistent goaltending and injuries to Jamie Langenbrunner, Vladimir Tarasenko, Andy McDonald and Alex Steen have all but erased memories of St. Louis’ red-hot start to the season — the Blues went 6-1-0 in their first seven games.
Since then, they’ve gone 5-8-2 and now boast a 3.00 goals-against average, seventh-worst in the NHL.
Armstrong said that starting Allen over Halak and Elliott might not be fair but, with the season potentially slipping away, he needs to play his best goalie.
“We need to stabilize and gain confidence that we can win 2-1 and 3-2 games,” he explained. “Not to make excuses for Brian or Jaro, but there was no training camp basically, they did not play during the lockout. But Jake has played and when he was in there, he was the sharpest in the group.
“Normally you give opportunities to work through situations, but in the environment we’re in right now it’s difficult to allow that because every point is so critical.”