Blues fans who have watched Jake Allen throughout his NHL career know No. 34 has never lacked talent. The part of Allen’s game that has left room for debate is whether he lets his brain get the best of him during trying times.
One can recall this being a 2017 issue as well when Allen’s game hit the skids at this same time on the calendar. No one knew what to make of it and it turned out being okay down the stretch.
But the Blues goalie is putting up some not great numbers again, losing eight of his past nine appearances on a 3.39 goals-against average and an .896 save percentage. It’s worth pointing out Allen’s skaters haven’t been playing stellar hockey in front of him, but he still hasn’t played like No. 1 on the depth chart.
ESPN senior hockey writer Greg Wyshynski thinks the perception of Allen works on a couple of levels.
“There are two classes of goalies in hockey. There are ones that are Teflon that will never get the criticism. It’ll always be the team playing poorly in front of them,” Wyshynski tells The Bernie Miklasz Show. “And then there are goalies that are always seemingly getting the blame for their team’s poor play and I think Jake Allen is in that category. I think that’s one level of the criticism.”
“The other level of the criticism is this: Once it’s been established that you’ve had to cater to a player because of his mental fragility; and in Allen’s case that’s been the case over his career where, ‘Does he have the mental acumen to win in the playoffs.’ ‘Let’s put him with (Martin) Brodeur so he can fix him.’
Which is understandable from a human perspective. Anytime the poo hits the fan and one battles only to sink further, it’s normal to acquiesce to those feelings at times. That’s human nature, but the fact Allen is a No. 1 netminder and is paid as such makes the situation harder to stomach.
Wyshynski believes this perception of Allen isn’t going away anytime soon.
“I think it becomes a situation where it’s very hard to shake that,” he said. “When he gets into these ruts, our thought isn’t, ‘Well, he just needs to fix his mechanics,’ or, ‘Well, the team needs to play a little bit in front of him.’ He gets into the rut and all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Well, he’s a flake.’
“I think there’s going to be no avoiding that for Jake. Maybe that gets wiped away if they win a championship of some kind, but as of now I think it’s going to be one of these deals where that mindset about him as a player is going to stick with him.”
Another hot Blues topic that’s sure to continue heating up to the Feb. 26 trade deadline is whether the local club will be market participants. The general consensus is Doug Armstrong and company need a to add forward, but salary cap constraints have them at a disadvantage.
Asked what names he could see the Blues taking looks at, Wyshynski mentioned a couple guys who could no doubt help, but we’d likely see some money and/or prospects headed out the door to stay okay cap-wise.
“There are a couple guys that do have multiple years in their contracts that I think are interesting, one being Mike Hoffman from the Ottawa Senators who apparently is on the block even though he’s quite a good winger. But, Ottawa’s kind of a mess right now,” Wyshynski said.
“The real ‘pie in the sky’ one for a lot of people, Max Pacioretty from the Montreal Canadiens; a captain on that team who has maybe reached the point where you need a change of scenery for him,” he added. “His goal numbers are dramatically down this year and that franchise seems to be spiraling out of control.”
Pacioretty has just 10 goals on 13 assists this season, but the Blues have had success with giving new additions a nice change in scenery. (See: Brayden Schenn) Wyshynski thinks the ask for Pacioretty could be steep, but also notes the winger’s pedigree.
“That’s a deal that would have to take some moving parts back to Montreal. Some money, some prospects, that sort of thing; in order to get a player of that ilk,” he said. “You talk about guys who could change the trajectory of a Cup chase, a dude who’s got a couple of 30-goal seasons to his credit recently is certainly one of those guys.”
You can hear all of Wyshynski’s talk below. Stay tuned to 101ESPN and 101Sports.com for plenty of Blues talk and analysis as the season rolls on and the trade deadline approaches.