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Jake Allen needs to be better, but so do Blues

There are few scenarios where Jake Allen‘s start to the 2018-19 NHL season could have gone much worse.

Allen has been slaughtered through two games, allowing 10 goals on 55 shots for a .818 save percentage and a whopping 4.91 goals-against average. Those aren’t NHL numbers. Hell, they aren’t AHL numbers either, or ECHL for that matter. Beer league goalies are stopping more pucks.

Getting the Bronx cheer in the first game of the regular season may seem harsh, but it’s not as if Blues fans are really overreacting.

Fans don’t forget and while Allen’s 2017-18 season was forgettable, it was unforgettable to fans who are keenly aware that he’s carrying a $4.35M cap hit over the next three seasons and hasn’t lived up to that kind of dough yet.

Against the Winnipeg Jets to open their season, some of the goals that found their way past Allen weren’t necessarily his fault. Allowing a breakaway on the power play was a breakdown out of Allen’s control. Allowing Kyle Connor to latch onto a puck out of the penalty box and then pass to Blake Wheeler, who wasn’t really defended, wasn’t Allen’s fault. Not stopping a Patrik Laine blast on the power play that was deflected by his own defender? Yeah, not Allen’s fault.

One could make the argument that the Winnipeg game was less on Allen and more on St. Louis as a whole. Allen played well for the first two periods and then the wheels on the Blues bus fell off in the third. The Blues allowed 13 high-danger scoring chances in the game. Winnipeg took advantage. C’est la vie.

Saturday’s game was a little different in that regard. St. Louis tightened up a bit defensively and didn’t allow as many good looks on Allen. Still, there were breakdowns and Allen became the victim.

The Blues spotted Allen a 2-0 lead, one that was relinquished. They then fought to get back a 4-3 lead after falling behind 3-2. That also wouldn’t last. Then a Jonathan Toews breakaway sealed the deal in overtime.

Allen’s numbers need to improve, one way or another. He’s 60 percent on high-danger shots through two games and 85 percent on medium ones. His 5-on-5 save percentage is .844. These aren’t good numbers. It’s a very small sample size, but you can see where improvements need to be made.

Odd-man rush or not, that’s a juicy rebound. Too juicy.

For what it’s worth, Blues coach Mike Yeo wasn’t pinning the blame on Allen after Saturday’s loss.

[Under Pressure: Jake Allen]

“We start playing. That’s it, right now,” Yeo said via NHL.com. “Let’s quit playing shinny hockey and let’s start playing real hockey. It’s correctable. It’s just a matter of us figuring out how long we want it to take before we decide if we want to be a good team or be a team that plays the game without purpose and as far as doing the little things and things it takes to win hockey games.”

That truth of the matter here is Allen is going to take the brunt of the blame at the moment. His poor year last season didn’t do him any favors, and an outsider looking at St. Louis’ first two games would suggest that the goalie needs to stop the puck a little more.

The Blues need Allen to stop the pucks he should and some of those that are high-percentage goals most of the time. St. Louis went out and tried to bolster their team during the offseason, but at the end of the day, if goals keep going in, it won’t matter how many improvements they made in front of Allen.

At this point, both Allen and the Blues need to be better. St. Louis has converted on just two of their 16 high-danger chances this season.

Time will tell if one or the other emerges as the real problem. In the meantime, you’d have to imagine that Chad Johnson, who was acquired in the offseason to play second fiddle to Allen, sees some time going forward.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Masks of Jake Allen, Carter Hutton to honor kids impacted by cancer

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The St. Louis Blues will hold their Hockey Fights Cancer night during their game against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday, and both goalies, Jake Allen and Carter Hutton, will be sporting special masks.

Allen, who will back up, saw the concept for his mask design created by Alex Pietrangelo’s niece, Ellie Kannel. Three years ago she was diagnosed with a form of kidney cancer that affects mostly children. Along with a Hockey Fights Cancer logo, the Blue Note and a snake drawing done by Ellie, the names of children who have been affected by cancer will also be featured, thanks to a gorgeous paint job by Jason Livery of Head Strong Grafx.

There will be close to 400 names of kids who have battled cancer on Hutton’s mask when he starts versus the Kings. In the design of the “I Fight For…” cards that players and staff have filled out during the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer month, the mask is a stunning reminder of just how many people the disease touches.

“It’s definitely powerful,” said Hutton via the Blues website. “For them to be able to individualize it with every kid on there, they’ve been through so many battles in their life, it’s going to be a great honor to wear their name. When you see how much cancer affects everyone on a day-to-day basis, I’m just happy to be part of it.”

Created by Jesse Acciacca of Jesse’s Custom Designs, Hutton’s mask will be donated to Friends of Kids with Cancer and will be auctioned off in the future. Allen’s will be up for bid during the team’s Casino Night last this season benefiting St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

The Blues as a team will be wearing bedazzled jerseys during warm-ups in honor of the late Ari Dougan, an 11-year-old who passed away last month following an eight-year battle with cancer. She had formed a very close bond with Vladimir Tarasenko over the last few years and the star forward and Dougan’s family will take part in the pre-game faceoff.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Steen’s 4-point night powers Blues; Bob shines vs. Sabres

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Player of the Night: Alex Steen, St. Louis Blues

While taking care of the Calgary Flames, Steen had a hand in four of the five Blues goals in their 5-2 victory. He evened the score with his first of the season late in the opening period, assisted on power play goals from Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo and then set up Paul Stastny’s tally.

Highlight of the Night:

— More like a lowlight. Jake Allen is going to want a second crack at this one.

MISC:

— Pietrangelo’s goal was a snipe:

— St. Louis has received 12 goals from their defense through 10 games.

— Thirteen Columbus Blue Jackets players recorded a point in their 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

— The Blue Jackets tallied three goals in a period for the fourth time this season.

Seth Griffith ruined Bobrovsky’s shutout bid late in the third with his first goal since Dec. 29, 2014.

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:

St. Louis 5, Calgary 2
Columbus 5, Buffalo 1

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Poll: Allen or Elliott or neither?

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Ah, the age-old debate in St. Louis.

To refresh your memory, the Blues’ goaltending soap opera was alive and well in 2014-15. Veteran Brian Elliott went into the season as the No. 1. Yada, yada, yada, by late March, less than a month to go until the postseason, he still was.

And then Blues coach Ken Hitchcock changed his mind and gave the starting job to young Jake Allen.

It did not go well for Allen in the playoffs. The youngster finished the six-game loss to the Wild with a .904 save percentage, leaving Hitchcock to defend his decision during yet another lengthy offseason for the club.

“I get the fact there were three goals that went in that were ugly,” the coach said. “That’s the growth of a young player.”

Hitchcock continued, “We got two guys who are more than capable of carrying the load here. I think goaltending is going to be our strength moving forward. We’ve got a young guy emerging and a veteran guy who’s on top of his game right now and playing the best of his career.”

Both Elliott, 30, and Allen, 25, are signed for two more seasons.

Which begs our poll question:

P.S. — We considered giving the option of “Just ride the hot hand — whoever’s playing the best at the time,” but that’s too easy.

Related: After Miller (and many others) failed, Blues turn to Elliott and Allen