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Your St. Louis Blues Have a Goaltender Problem: Jake the Snakebitten

We’ve been through most of this before, but let’s start with a quick review.

The Blues have four major issues:

1. They’re too easy to beat. They’re no longer a team that’s tough to play against. Ken Hitchcock didn’t get the Blues into the Stanley Cup Finals, let alone win a Cup. But the Blues were a top-three team during the regular season (league-wide) with Hitch as coach. And opponents dreaded playing against the Blues, who were physical and stubborn and disciplined. Compare that to what we’ve seen since last February or so. Even though a good percentage of the roster has changed, the Blues have too many outbreaks of softness, looseness, and avoidable mistakes. They beat themselves way too often. With Mike Yeo as coach, the Blues epitomize mediocrity.

2. In a related note, the Blues are lousy at home, and that’s a reflection of their dullish competitive edge. Going back to last Feb. 11, the Blues have won 11 of their last 23 games at Enterprise Center. Again: way, way, too easy for opponents to play against.

3. The Blues are being dominated by division opponents, going 3-12-3 against their Central brethren in the last 18 divisional matchups. And all three wins came against Chicago, another team that’s lost its way in the rough-and-tumble Central. In the 15 losses (three in overtime), the Blues have been outscored by 35 goals, 65 to 30. In an expanded sample size, the Blues are 4-1-2 vs. Chicago since the start of last season and are a combined 8-14-4 against Nashville, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Colorado and Dallas. Again: way too easy of a mark for opponents.

4. Unless the backup goaltender is starting a game, the Blues cannot count on a consistent, solid performance in the net. And yes, that’s because of Jake Allen.

And this is where I’m going to veer off into the direction of the goaltender.

Just the facts, beginning in the 2012-2013 season, Allen’s first with the Blues …

Unless otherwise noted, the stats were culled from Hockey Reference

Save Percentage, Blues goaltenders

1.   Carter Hutton,  .923

2.   Brian Elliott,  .920

3.   Jaroslav Halak,  .913

4.   Jake Allen,  .911

* Chad Johnson, new to the Blues this season has a .927 save percentage so far.

Goal-Against Average, Blues goaltenders

1.    Elliott,  2.14

2.    Halak,  2.20

3.   Hutton,  2.23

4.   Allen,  2.55

* Chad Johnson, 2.08

Quality Start Percentage, Blues goaltenders

1.   Elliott,  65.8

2.   Hutton,  63.8

3.   Halak,  54.7

4.   Allen,  52.3

* Johnson, 50%

Really Bad Start Percentage, Blues goaltenders

1.   Hutton, 10.6 percent

2.   Elliott,  14%

3.   Allen, 18%

4.   Halak,  18.8%

* Johnson, 25 percent. But he’s made only four starts.

Goals Saved Above Average, Blues goaltenders

1.   Elliott,  + 47.9

2.   Hutton,  + 14.4

3.   Halak,  minus 0.47

4.   Allen,  minus 15.8

Goals Allowed Percentage, Relative to League Average

1.   Elliott,  11 percent better than the league average

2.   Hutton,  10 percent better than league average

3.   Halak,  5 percent below league average

4.   Allen,  7 percent below league average

* Johnson is 20% above average through six appearances this season.

OK, now that we took a look at that, the conclusion is obvious: Allen’s performance simply doesn’t measure up when compared to other Blues’ goaltenders since the start of the 2012-2013 campaign. And that’s just  part of it. Allen’s rate stats have really deteriorated since the start of last season.

In the last two seasons, Allen’s .901 save percentage ranks 28th in the NHL among the 30 goaltenders that have made a minimum of 50 starts.

Allen’s goals-against average (2.50) is tied for 20th among the 30 NHL goalies with 50+ starts.

In Goals Saved Above Average, Allen has been a disaster since he start of last season, with a minus 20.4 goals … meaning that he’s allowed 20.4 goals more than a league-average goaltender.

Allen ranks 24th on this list of 30 in high-danger save percentage (.809) and is tied for the fifth-worst save percentage (.925) on low-danger chances.

Allen’s quality start percentage over the last two seasons (46.2 %) is among the worst in the league.

As for goals allowed relative to the league average, Allen since the start of last season is 19.5 percent below the league average … and that’s compared to his backups over this time — Hutton, and Johnson — who are a combined 20.5 percent above average.

That means, roughly, that over the last two seasons, on average, the Blues have had a negative swing of nearly 40 percent in performance quality when Allen plays instead of his backup.

I mean, this isn’t even close. It’s shocking to put a light on these statistics and discover just how bad this is.

It’s true that Jake has had some outstanding runs in the past. He was huge in the 2015 postseason journey into the Western Conference finals, playing at a level that came in at 22 percent above average during the three playoff rounds.

Since then, Allen’s game has spiraled in a free fall. There’s no doubt about it. This is a fact, not an opinion: Jake has been one of the worst goaltenders in the NHL. The Blues will keep working with him … waiting … being patient … giving him down time to mentally regroup … hoping that he figures everything out to stabilize his performance and his confidence.

The Blues are paying Allen a guaranteed $4.35 million this season, and owe him a guaranteed $8.7 million over the 2019-20  and 2020-21 seasons.

Allen is the Blues’ highest-paid goaltender, that’s for sure. But let’s close with  question…

If every backup goaltender that the Blues bring to St. Louis plays significantly better than the No. 1 goaltender, than what does that say about your No. 1 goalie?

The three-part answer:

  • The No. 1 goaltender isn’t really a No. 1 goaltender.
  • The guaranteed salary may give him the unofficial title as No. 1, but the performance doesn’t match the billing … or the dollars.
  • You’ve made a mistake with your decision to invest in him.

I sincerely hope Allen can find his way out of the forest and get his career back on a positive track.

But suppose he fails to re-establish traction?

The Blues don’t have much of a chance to turn their season around and become a consistent winner unless they play the goaltender who is sturdy and consistent and immune to crazy and unpredictable fluctuations in performance.

This isn’t about the pay.

It’s about the play.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Blues End 7-Game Homestand With as Just as Many Questions as Before