Hitchcock: Allen becoming a ‘prime-time player’ for Blues


If Ken Hitchcock’s history is any indication, St. Louis goalie Jake Allen might be on the verge of something big.

Allen, the 22-year-old rookie netminder, has taken his opportunity to move ahead of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott in the Blues’ pecking order with aplomb, going 8-1-0 with a .920 save percentage and 2.19 GAA.

The development has impressed Hitchcock, but hasn’t come as a huge surprise.

“He’s becoming a prime-time player,” Hitchcock told the Belleville News-Democrat on Tuesday. “We expected this when we drafted him and we expected this when he matured.”

The Blues took Allen in the second round (34th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the fourth goalie taken behind Chet Pickard, Thomas McCollum and Jakob Markstrom.

Hitchcock says teams can’t afford to miss on goalies selected that high (“you can’t make a mistake on those,” he said. “Those have to be prime-time players,”) and added that Allen’s situation in St. Louis reminded him of similar scenarios in Columbus and Dallas.

More, from the News-Democrat:

“This is a very similar story,” Hitchcock said. “Pascal [Leclaire] had a heck of a year the year before, a lot of shutouts, played great and then got hurt. We were thinking of playing Steve [Mason] 15 to 20 games and probably in the minors.

“Then when Passer got hurt, [Mason] ended up playing all the games.”

An injury to Dallas veteran goalie Ed Belfour gave [Marty] Turco his first chance.

“Eddie got hurt and Marty came in and played great and Marty’s career took off from there, so I’ve gone through this twice to be honest with you,” Hitchcock said. “This is very familiar ground.”

The Mason comparison is interesting because Allen could replicate some of the Columbus netminder’s success.

Mason was nominated for the Vezina and won the Calder in 2009. While Allen’s a long shot for a Vezina nod, he currently leads all rookie goalies in every significant statistical category.

Should he stay hot and carry St. Louis into the playoffs, there’s no telling what hardware will come his way.

Hitchcock says T.J. Oshie is ‘nowhere near ready to play yet’

St. Louis Blues v Philadelphia Flyers
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The St. Louis Blues nearly won the Presidents Trophy last season despite a host of injuries. They’re starting to see key players come in and out of the lineup again in 2013, as forward T.J. Oshie was placed on the IR on Saturday.

The move is retroactive to March 12’s game against the San Jose Sharks when Oshie, 26, was hurt in the second period. It sounds like he’s dealing with a rib injury, although it’s officially listed as an upper-body ailment.

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock provides a little good news and bad news regarding the intriguing forward.

“He’s just skating,” Hitchcock said. “He’s a little bit better obviously being able to skate, but he’s nowhere near ready to play yet.”

On the bright side, the Blues recently got Alexander Steen back from a shoulder injury.

It’s rare that St. Louis gets to roll with its full lineup at 100 percent, but at least the Blues are getting used to it.

Hitchcock on Blues goaltending: ‘Last year we rewarded shutouts. Now we’re rewarding wins’


The St. Louis Blues will start rookie netminder Jake Allen for the second straight game in San Jose on Saturday.


‘Cause he won on Thursday, that’s why.

That’s what it’s come to for the Blues, who have received lackluster goaltending throughout the first half of the season — forcing head coach Ken Hitchcock to employ a ‘win-and-you’re-in’ strategy.

“Last year, we rewarded shutouts,” Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Now we’re rewarding wins. Bar has changed.”

Has it ever.

The Blues got some of the stingiest goaltending in franchise history last year. Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott teamed to win the William Jennings Trophy by allowing just 165 goals in 82 games; the pair also tied the modern NHL record (with the 1969-70 Blackhawks) for most shutouts in a season, with 15.

There was such strong competition between Halak and Elliott that Allen wasn’t even in the picture. Heck, the Blues were so stocked at the position they dealt away Ben Bishop to Ottawa just prior to trade deadline.

But this year, things have changed — and it’s Allen who’s emerged as a legitimate No. 1 goaltender.

“We’ve been struggling as a team, we’re fighting for our lives at the bottom of the pack,” Allen told the Post-Dispatch. “I’ve been here … I was up in playoffs last year and I’ve been here a couple of weeks this year. It’s nothing new. You know what you’re getting yourself into.

“You’ve got to be ready for it, and I feel like I am.”

Hitchcock upset with Tarasenko hit: ‘It was a blow to the head’

Toronto Maple Leafs v St. Louis Blues

St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock is displeased with the hit that sidelined his star rookie, Vladimir Tarasenko.

“It’s a blow to the head,” Hitchcock told NHL.com’s Lou Korac about the shot Tarasenko took from Colorado’s Mark Olver on Wednesday night. “Don’t care how it got there, whether it was a legit hockey play — it happens fast.

“It was a blow to the head. That was my concern.”

On Thursday, the NHL said there would be no fine or suspension for Olver.

On Friday, the Blues put Tarasenko on injured reserve, with Hitchcock telling Korac the young Russian forward has a ‘pretty severe’ facial laceration and ‘some form’ of concussion.

Tarasenko was taken to hospital on Wednesday and released in time to fly home with his Blues teammates.

He didn’t have a headache on Thursday but reportedly had one on Friday, partly why St. Louis put him on IR.

For Hitchcock, the problem with the Olver-Tarasenko hit goes beyond legality. The veteran head coach said the incident is part of a larger-scale discussion regarding young players, awareness, vulnerability and unsuspecting positions.

More, from Korac:

“Everybody says ‘well it’s a hockey play,’ or whatever. I think there’s a bigger picture for me here,” Hitchcock said. “It’s not so much Vladi, it’s all the young players.

“These are young players who are in unsuspecting situations. It just seems like there’s a lot of young players that are getting hurt because experienced players know where they can catch them in vulnerable situations That’s the part that bothers me.

“The hit is the hit. The part that really bothers me is all the young players who don’t expect to get hit and have to learn these type of lessons. [Colorado’s Gabriel] Landeskog or a Tarasenko, I’m sure there’s other ones, there’s lots of other ones and you just don’t like to see it.

“I wish there was a way that we could let the young guys play a little bit and not try to put them in unsuspecting [positions]. I don’t think in a million years he thought he would get hit in that situation.”


Blues put Tarasenko on injured reserve

Report: No disciplinary hearing for Avs’ Olver after Tarasenko hit

Hitchcock on Elliott: ‘He’s got to play better’


The St. Louis Blues eked out a charity point in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks, but Brian Elliott didn’t have a good night. Head coach Ken Hitchcock noticed, too.

He told NHL.com’s Lou Korac that the 2012 All-Star needs to get better.

“Not playing very good. Not much I can say. He’d be the first to tell you too. He’s got to play better,” Hitchcock said. “You can’t stay in the lineup if you don’t play well. I don’t care who you are. He’s got to play better.”

Hitch reports that the 27-year-old goalie won’t get a chance to redeem himself in the Blues’ next game, either way. It will either be Jaroslav Halak, 27, if he’s ready to return from a groin injury or Jake Allen, 22, if not.

Teemu Selanne was Elliott’s biggest nuisance on Saturday night, collecting four points. The 42-year-old icon helped Anaheim generate a ridiculous run of three goals in just 1:41 of time in the second period.

St. Louis is now 0-3-1 in its last four games while the Ducks moved into first place in the Pacific Division.