The St. Louis Blues have struggled early on in this young hockey season. After making the playoffs for four straight years, including the Western Conference Finals in 2015-16 (lost to the San Jose Sharks), the Blues took a step back, failing to qualify last season. This year they are a middling 4-5-3 and sit at 14th place in the Western Conference. Much of the blame for this tough start has been given to goaltender Jake Allen who is 4-3-3 with an unseemly GAA at 3.99 and a save percentage at .879. The goaltending clearly is a big part of the problem and if you do not have solid netminding everything else suffers. A team can get away with average scoring if the goalie is solid. The opposite never works for long. The Boston Bruins have had trouble in this area too, however their backup, former Blue Jaroslav Halak, is on a bit of a higher level than Blues backup and journeyman Chad Johnson. Halak is doing very well in place of Tuukka Rask, however the Blues have no such, go to, option. Allen has shown his talent in the past and he needs to recover that if the Blues are going to salvage this season.
Although the goaltending woes are obvious there is another problem that is less obvious. Anyone who knows the Blues, knows they are defense first and have been for some time. Their last Calder winner was a defenceman (Barrett Jackman) and their last first overall pick, (Erik Johnson) also is a defenceman. That being said, the defence work in front of Allen has not been up to the standards the Blues need to succeed. Yesterday, the Blues lost to the Minnesota Wild 5-1. In the game, the Wild peppered Allen with am incredible 45 shots. Its little wonder the score was 5-1 especially when you consider the Blues only had 16 shots on the Minnesota net. The defense has to improve and soon or Allen can stand on his head and they will still lose.
So, what must be done? 1) Jake Allen needs to find his way and prove he can be a consistent, winning NHL goalie. He has shown it before, where has that Jake Allen gone? 2) The Blues need to tighten up their defense in front of Allen if they are going to have a prayer of salvaging this thing. Chad Johnson is an adequate fill in, however he cannot be counted on to carry the load. An in season, starting goalie trade, is highly unlikely. Its now or never for the whole Blues defense. They have offensive tools with Vlad Tarasenko, Ryan O’ Reilly and Brayden Schenn, but without their usually solid defense it will not be enough. Time will tell.