LOS ANGELES – In the morning before the St. Louis Blues’ Monday game at the Los Angeles Kings, goaltending coach Martin Brodeur informed head coach Mike Yeo that goaltender Jake Allen was “ready to go.”
“I listen to Marty. He seems to get it,” Yeo said.
Brodeur was right in his assessment of Allen’s preparedness for the game as the netminder stopped 38 of 39 shots on goal to help the Blues to a crucial 3-1 win over the Kings. With the victory, St. Louis moved five points clear of Los Angeles for the final Western Conference Wild Card spot with both teams having played 68 games.
“I think we did a good job. We didn’t, in here, think of it as any different game. Just another game,” Allen said. “The standings will take care of themselves at the end of the year. We just wanted to get a win. Obviously you have to have a realistic approach too and I think the guys did a really good job with the way they approached this game. I think if we came in thinking too much ‘we got a win, we got a win’ it might have went a different way. I think we just prepared like it was another game and we got the win.”
In some respects, the game showed how far Allen has come – to be in a position to backstop the Blues in a crucial contest.
From Dec. 8 through Jan. 31 Allen went 4-10-0, held an .876 save percentage and 3.50 goal-against average. He was even left home for part of a road trip to give him a mental reset in late January.
Since Feb. 2, Allen has gone 9-6-0 and held a 1.96 goal-against average and .935 save percentage. Allen’s rise has essentially coincided with the Blues’ decision to fire former coach Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 1 along with goaltending coach Jimmy Corsi and replace the two with Yeo and Brodeur. Ty Conklin, the organization’s goalie development coach, has also split duties with Brodeur since the change. Before that date, Yeo was the Blues’ coach-in-waiting and Brodeur was working in the front office.
According to Yeo, Allen has found some chemistry with Brodeur, the league’s all-time wins leader who was Allen’s teammate for a stretch with St. Louis during the 2014-15 season.
“He’s very technical. He breaks things down. He gives the goalies a reason things are working and why they’re not and with that I think it’s his ability to help prepare them through practice and the little things and the game situations that are either correcting or reinforcing habits,” Yeo said of Brodeur. “As much as anything else, just his experience, the mental part of it and how he allows those guys to go into the game feeling confident. That’s a huge part.”
Allen found himself dealing with adversity early in Monday’s game when the Blues took a penalty at the 1:07 mark of the first period. He stopped all the Kings shots on goal on the ensuing power play and kept LA at bay long enough for David Perron to score at the 13:37 mark to put the Blues up 1-0.
He then stopped all 21 Kings shots on goal in the second period, which paved the way for Magnus Paajarvi’s game-winning goal at the 1:10 mark of the third period.
“I think we’ve always had the same confidence in him throughout the whole year, throughout the ups and downs of our team play,” Perron said. “But most likely, when a goalie’s not doing as well, a lot of times there’s a lot of holes in the game for us and obviously we want him to play like that every night and he certainly delivered tonight.”
Yeo’s brief tenure as Blues coach has been marked by winning streaks and losing streaks and the Blues are currently riding a five-game stretch of victories. If they want to continue their strong play, they know Allen needs to keep up his pace. This is something he understands as well.
“I think I’ve been playing well lately. I’ve been practicing well, I’ve been working hard and just trying to give the guys an honest chance every single night,” Allen said. “I think that’s my objective from here on out is to give our team an honest chance to win every game and if I can do that and do my job and maybe steal a game here or there, that’s what the last 14 games are all about.”
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