Going into the 2015-16 NHL hockey season, it seemed clear that the St. Louis Blues were going to continue the maddening goalie rotation between Jake Allen and Brian Elliott. Unlike some goalie rotations where the starter keeps changing because the team cannot decide between two mediocre choices, both Allen and Elliott have played excellent hockey in recent years. Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock just could not seem to decide between the two; instead, he decided not to decide. He went with the “play the hot hand” strategy and left it at that.
I think there is a lot to be said for having consistency in the crease. Even if you have a solid backup (which is a great problem to have), you still need to pick a clear-cut number one. Although I hesitate to say anything definitive about Hitchcock, he seems to have settled in on Jake Allen as his number-one guy. Of course, he has not said this publicly, and last I checked he was still “officially” sticking to the “hot hand” strategy. However, his recent actions seem to suggest otherwise.
In the past ten games, Jake Allen has been the starter in nine of them. Yes, there was an illness on the part of Elliott that played a part in this; however, the Blues play the rival Detroit Red Wings tonight, and Allen is scheduled to start. Allen clearly has the lead here. His stats back up this move as well. He has nine wins and a 1.91 goals-against average so far this season, and for all the GAA skeptics out there, that 1.91 is supported by a .935 save percentage.
The Blues also have another incentive to play Allen: his age. He is 25 years old, whereas Elliott is “ancient” at 30 years of age. If Allen can establish himself as the St. Louis starter, it will be easier for the Blues to give him a mutually-beneficial long-term contract (Allen and Elliott are both signed through the end of the 2016-2017 season).
It looks like Allen is the man, with Elliott still earning a respectable number of starts but no longer truly participating in the 1A/1B goalie timeshare the Blues have relied on in recent years. This will give the team consistency and, as a side note, will make it easier for fantasy owners to know who will be in net for the majority of Blues games. If Allen can pull this off, everyone wins.
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