To say Jake Allen has struggled recently would be an understatement. He’s been pulled three times in his last five games. Last night he allowed three goals on 15 shots. The previous game against the Bruins, he allowed 3 goals on 11 shots. Hitch put him back in the net because Allen’s the starter. To summarize his pre-game comments, Hitchcock wanted Allen to get back on the horse and work out his issues.
That didn’t happen.
“This is really on the athlete. There’s times in your young career where you just said you’ve had enough and then you’ve got to go turn it around the other way,” Hitchcock said of Allen’s struggles. “He’s in a position where he’s the guy that has to really take charge here. He’s got to man-up and get better and we’ve got to get better in front of him.”
I’m glad that Hitchcock said that last part. Sure, every mistake is “ending up in the back of [their] net,” but the mistakes are getting made to begin with. The defense has been awful. They’ve looked varying degrees of lost, discombobulated, and non-communicative out there. That’s an issue, since this is the same defensive corps that last season was solid.
Could the loss of the assistant coaches this off-season be that big of a deal? Signs point to yes. That’s the only major change defensively between this season and last.
Goaltending wise, there’re going to be calls to “improve in goal” or cries that Brian Elliott shouldn’t’ve been traded to begin with. I hated to see Elliott go, but it’s Doug Armstrong and Ken Hitchcock who created a situation where Ells was the 1A. Elliott didn’t want to be a 1A, he wanted to be a starter. Now he (kind of) is, in Calgary, where he has struggled off and on behind a non-Hitchcockian system.
They chose the young goaltender who, up until this season, showed much progress.
Allen’s occasionally had moments in previous seasons where you questioned not his ability, but his seasoning. Maybe part of this is being too young for the starter role. Maybe someone over-estimated his readiness to carry a team.
Goaltending, aside from Brian Elliott, as been managed poorly since 2011. It’s been the scapegoat position, and making it that this year’s too easy. There are problems beyond Jake Allen, his confidence, and his glove hand. When your offense goes nearly twenty minutes without a shot on goal, that’s not on Allen. When your defense can’t figure out positioning, that’s not on Allen.
This problem, these lulls, have been happening enough this season that blaming them solely on Jake Allen is ignorant at best, malicious at worst. Making him the scapegoat of this season up to this point is unrealistic.
He may need to “man up,” but so does the rest of the team, and so do its coaches.