It’s Nov. 7 and the Blues have the most points in the Western Conference. No, I am not drunk, but only a guy dispensing facts before opinion. The Blues are very good right now, but how long can it last? That’s like asking how many times a place with great pizza can produce the exact same quality of product. It’s faulty.
As Blues fans, you are built with a device titled “the bullshit measure”, which regulates the odds of the team maintaining a good level of play. How much is real and how much is straight bullshit?
Believe it or not, but the Blues are getting production from unlikely sources. Who had Carl Gunnarsson lighting the lamp three times before Thanksgiving? Robert Bortuzzo has as many goals as Alexander Steen, and one more than you and I. Alex Pietrangelo is nearly halfway to his 2016-17 goal total after only 15 games.
Stranger Things is a helluva television show (seriously, give it a gander on Netflix), but as Jeff Jones pointed out in the Nov. 2 edition of the STLGT paper, the Blues defensive makeup could assume the same name as the popular TV series.
But I don’t think the longevity of the Blues success boils down to their defensemen.
For my money, the key to the Blues holding up and keeping a stranglehold on the division comes down to one man: Jake Allen.
While the scoring output is nice (currently 8th in the NHL), the Blues will not maintain that level for long. Unless their special teams improve-power play is 22nd and penalty kill is 23rd-the team will lean on sharp goaltending to stick around.
Allen has been very good as of late, but overall on the season, he has to be better than the overall mark of a 2.48 goals against average and .919 save percentage. I don’t mean to be the asshole, but Allen should be closer to Carter Hutton’s 1.67 GAA and .950 save %. If he wants to be the guy and assure fans that the future for the team stands with him between the pipes, Allen must be more consistent.
Instead of celebrating a 3-4 game stretch where he plays very well, Allen has to do this for weeks to prove stability is possible. Last season, Allen was Jekyll and Hyde in net. He started off great, then plummeted, before rebounding once Mike Yeo took over. It got so bad that Allen stayed home on a road trip to mentally re-calibrate.
What if Allen has another terrible stretch? Hutton has been great so far in small doses, but he’s not capable of carrying the Blues for a long stretch. Without Allen, the special teams futility will become exposed and the scoring output will go down.
Allen has to steal the Blues a few more games than he has, and perhaps shut a team out. You can make the case for certain goals going in that Allen had no vision on, but there’s still the Shaky Allen moments in big spots during games.
If Allen can do what he did during the 2016-17 playoffs for an entire season, the Blues could make a push for the Stanley Cup Finals this year. They are getting the scoring from multiple lines and still aren’t 100 percent healthy just yet.
At the end of the day, Allen’s play will determine how great this Blues team can be.
And I’m not just talking about 2017-18 with this statement. Unless Jaden Schwartz can maintain the level of scoring he is right now or some other assured scoring force comes to the forefront, this is still a Blues team that relies heavily on goaltending.
When Doug Armstrong traded Brian Elliott for scraps before last season and gave Allen a four year deal, he made a decision that was crucial to the team’s success. He chose youth over proven success (let’s face it, Ells was so underrated). It was a gamble that finally paid off when Allen gave the Blues all he had last spring in the playoffs.
He’ll have to be even sharper for the team to challenge further this season.
Is he up to the task? Let’s put this way: over his career, Allen’s save percentage is .915. That’s nice and all, but it must be better.
Maybe, like Pietrangelo thriving in his second year as Captain, Allen could kick it up a notch in his second year as “the guy” in net.
Only time will tell. In the meantime, buy more bourbon and look for my next dose in the paper this Saturday, Nov. 11.