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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

Tom Wilson ejected for high hit; another suspension coming?

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Oh boy, here we go again.

Tom Wilson was ejected from Sunday’s game between the Washington Capitals and the St. Louis Blues in the second period for checking to the head.

The victim was Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist.

The principal point of contact appears to be Sundqvist’s head.

And here’s another angle of the hit:

Sundqvist needed help to get off the ice and hasn’t returned to the game. The Blues were leading 1-0 prior to the hit. Washington has since tied the game.

The Capitals should probably just sit Wilson any time they’re playing the Blues in the preseason.

Wilson was suspended not once, but twice last year in the preseason for two separate hits on Blues’ players. He received a two-game ban for a late hit on Robert Thomas and then was suspended for the first four games of the regular season after boarding Sammy Blais in Washington’s final preseason game last year.

This could be Wilson’s fourth suspension in just over a year, with his third coming on May 2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs.

The hit was particularly nasty, and the recipient, Zach Anton-Resse, suffered a concussion and a broken jaw as a result.

If the league deems the hit worthy of a suspension, the book is likely going to get thrown at Wilson. He’s a repeat offender, repeatedly.

Wilson signed a six-year, $31 million contract extension with the Caps over the summer after helping the Caps to their first Stanley Cup.

UPDATE:

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

Martin Brodeur is going home, returns to Devils in business development role

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Martin Brodeur is heading home.

After three years as the assistant general manager of the St. Louis Blues, one of the greatest goalies of all-time is taking a step back from hockey operations and putting his business hat on as the New Jersey Devils’ executive vice-president of business development.

“It feels fantastic to be back home here in New Jersey,” Brodeur told the Associated Press. “This unique opportunity will allow me to build on existing relationships in the business community and take on a new challenge in my career. I’ve been able to work in all facets of the game of hockey and have had a growing interest in the business surrounding the game.”

Brodeur, who is set to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame later this year, left his post with the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, citing that he was chasing new opportunities, although it appears he will remain a resident in the Gateway to the West.

“I have a ton of respect for Marty in that he felt at this point in his life with his son, Max, he wanted to spend a little bit more time at home,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “When you look at the hours an assistant manager has to put in, even in the summer preparing, Marty felt he needed to prioritize his family coming from playing and jumping right into management. He hasn’t had any time off. I certainly understand that. We wish Marty nothing but the best as he moves forward. When he does want to get back in the management role in hockey, his future will take him wherever he wants to go.”

With recent experience working in a hockey ops role with Team Canada, it will be interesting to see where Brodeur goes with this new role. He’s a three-time Stanley Cup winner with enough goaltending records to have his own book.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Brodeur back on the hockey side of the game in the future, but you can’t blame him for wanting to watch his kids grow up.


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

Blues continue busy summer with Patrick Maroon signing

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The summer of being aggressive in the free agent market landed another player in St. Louis on Tuesday.

Doug Armstrong and the Blues snapped up another free agent, inking bruising forward Patrick Maroon to a one-year contract worth $1.75 million.

The Blues have been on a tear this summer, already having bolstered their front 12 with the acquisition of Ryan O’Reilly through trade, and the additions of Tyler Bozak and David Perron and backup goalie Chad Johnson — all of which were signed since the free agency period opened on July 1 — as they try to rekindle their perennial playoff status.

The departure of Paul Stastny is looking less and less like a loss these days as Armstrong has been able to bolster his lineup and then some thus far.

Maroon, a St. Louis native, adds the physical chops needed in a tough Central Division. And he can score with the right linemates.

He is a year removed from putting up 27 goals with the Edmonton Oilers, albeit with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Last season wasn’t what 2016-17 was and was ultimately traded to the New Jersey Devils at the trade deadline.

Still, the potential is there with the right playmaker, and while he’s not going to have McJesus feeding him, he could provide the secondary scoring the Blues need after having shored up their top-six this summer.

“This is a one-year opportunity for him to come back, hopefully play with some really good centermen and get back to that 27-goal performance he had in Edmonton, or close to it,” Armstrong told the team’s website. “We think he can help our team. I talked to some of our players about him, competing against him, and they spoke very highly about how hard he was to play against, how difficult he was to move in those high traffic areas. It’s just another player we add to our group that makes us a little better than we were yesterday.”

St. Louis is now pretty tight up against the $79.5 million salary cap for this coming season, counting Just over $76 million against it.

They also have a pending arbitration case with Joel Edmundson set for July 25 (he made just over $1 million last year and is due a raise after posting career highs in goals, points and ice time last season.) and Jordan Schmaltz still needs a new deal as well. Both are restricted free agents.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a Blues fan that isn’t happy with the way Armstrong has strong-armed the free agent market.

The Blues were certainly disappointing last year, but they were a team hampered by injuries for large chunks of the season and couldn’t muster enough down the stretch to squeak into the playoffs.

Armstrong angered some when appeared to give up on the Blues after trading Stastny away. But he’s certainly shown his commitment to getting the Blues back to the playoffs this summer.


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

Paul Stastny ‘absolutely’ open to St. Louis Blues return

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Winnipeg Jets forward and pending unrestricted free agent Paul Stastny says he’d be open to returning to the St. Louis Blues.

Talking to Hockey Sense host Andy Strickland on The Fan 590 in St. Louis, Stastny, who was traded by the Blues to the Jets at the trade deadline in a deal that brought a first-round pick and a prospect forward Erik Foley the other way on Feb. 26, said he would welcome a return to the Gateway to the West if St. Louis showed interest in bringing him back.

“Absolutely,” Stastny told Strickland during the interview. “I don’t think I’ve closed the door on anything. I know it’s a business, getting older, you see it.

“I always keep everything open because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Stastny is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

The 32-year-old had 28 points in 37 total games with the Jets (regular season and playoffs combined), including a memorable three-point outing that included two goals in Game 7 of Winnipeg’s second-round series triumph against the Nashville Predators.

After Winnipeg’s season ended at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final, Stastny told the media that waiving his no-trade clause to move to Winnipeg was likely he best decision he’s made in his career.

But it wasn’t easy.

“Trades are tough,” Stastny told Strickland. “I think when you’re so emotionally invested in a team and you think your an important part or your battling with the guys all year, you don’t expect that.”

Stastny said Winnipeg’s coaching staff put him in a great position to succeed.

Stastny played between superstar sniper Patrik Laine and speedster Nikolaj Ehlers for much of his time spent with the Jets, helping Laine to a 15-game point streak near the end of the season.

“We had the right fit right from the start,” Stastny said.

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff kept his cards close to his chest when he spoke to the media following

“It was a great experience talking to him in the exit meeting, and hearing about his decision-making process in coming here, and his thought process after being here, and moving forward,” Cheveldayoff said. “There is lots of business to be done here. First and foremost, we have to wait for the cap to be set. We have a lot of work ahead of us from the business side.

“It’s amazing how a player like [Stastny] can come into your lineup and feel like he’s been a part of it forever. That type of chemistry and symmetry that is testament to the type of person he is, and how tight our group was.”

Cheveldayoff is going to have to do some wizardry with the numbers to keep the bevy of young talent he has on his team. No fewer than nine restricted free agents will be looking for paydays this summer, and Patrik Laine — who will be an RFA next season — is likely to receive a hefty deal this year (although that wouldn’t kick in until the following year).

There’s the possibility of Stastny signing a one-year pact with the Jets and take another run at the Stanley Cup. Keeping Stastny would mean keeping a center that found chemistry with both Laine and Ehlers and providing mentorship to the young Scandinavians as they continue to develop.

There’s no shortage of other NHL teams that want a top-six center either. And some teams (let’s say the Montreal Canadiens, for instance) have some cash to throw at one.

This all sets up for an interesting month as we head toward July 1.

MORE:
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub
• Stanley Cup Final Guide


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