JakeAllen

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

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

Why?

‘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
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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.”

Related

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’

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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.

Hitchcock confident Redden can still contibute at NHL level

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Wade Redden might be 35 years old, and he might’ve been buried the last two seasons in the AHL, but his new head coach in St. Louis is convinced the former NHL all-star defenseman still has something left in the tank.

“I know he does,” Ken Hitchcock said, per the Belleville News-Democrat. “I watched him skate, so I know what he’s got left.”

Redden signed a one-year deal with the Blues last week after being bought out of his six-year, $39 million contract by the Rangers.

He didn’t play in the Blues’ opener Saturday, and he won’t play Monday in Nashville. But when he does finally make his return to the NHL, he’s confident it’ll be a successful one.

“I feel I’ve got something to give for sure,” Redden said. “I’m looking forward to showing that and getting my feet under me again. It’s been a little while since I’ve been in this league, but looking at some of the guys on the back end and some of the players they have here, it’s going to be good for me to come in and support that, be part of that.”

PHT Morning Skate: Where Hitchcock works to keep Blues relevant during lockout

Ken Hitchcock

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is doing what he can to keep his team relevant in a market that has plenty of alternatives outside of the NHL for sports fans. (Edmonton Sun)

Bruins coach Claude Julien likes Dougie Hamilton’s chances of making Boston’s roster once the lockout is over. He was also impressed by goaltending prospect Malcolm Subban. (CSNNE)

Devils goaltending prospect Scott Wedgewood will be starting his pro career in the ECHL. (New Jersey Online)

Family and friends gathered to pay their respects to former Red Wings announcer Budd Lynch, who passed away at the age of 95. (Detroit Free Press)

Senators prospect Jean-Gabriel Pageau is getting a chance to play on the same line as Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad in the AHL. If it wasn’t for the lockout Zibanejad and Silfverberg might have both made the Senators’ opening game roster. (Ottawa Citizen)

Chris Bourque is looking forward to mentoring some of AHL Providence’s younger players. Once the lockouts over, Bourque might get a chance to play for the Boston Bruins. (CSNNE)