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.”