Allen and Andersen headline wave of new No. 1 NHL netminders.
When the season was on the line for the St. Louis Blues, they turned to 31-year-old veteran goaltender Brian Elliott.
Now, after being eliminated one game short of a 2016 Stanley Cup final appearance, they’re putting their faith in a much younger goalie.
St. Louis is handing the keys to the crease to 25-year-old Jake Allen next National Hockey League season after dealing Elliott to Calgary on draft night. Allen and Elliott had been tangling for control of the St. Louis crease for two seasons, with Elliott starting 83 games compared to Allen’s 76.
“I think honestly for both of us it’s probably the best thing personally,” Allen said. “He wanted a chance to be a full-out No. 1 and so did I. And obviously (Blues general manager Doug Armstrong) had to make a decision there and we all know the one he made and I think we’re both really OK with it.
“I know he didn’t want to leave St. Louis, but he’s obviously got a great opportunity in Calgary and I have a great opportunity in St. Louis.”
The Blues hammered that point home earlier this month, signing Allen to a four-year extension that begins in 2017.
Allen and Elliott are among a wave of goaltenders likely to inherit full-time duties next season, a group which could include Frederik Andersen (Toronto), John Gibson (Anaheim), Petr Mrazek (Detroit), Matt Murray (Pittsburgh) and perhaps Jacob Markstrom (Vancouver) and even Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg).
Some goaltenders thrive with more opportunity, while others wilt under the physical and mental strain of starting three to four nights a week.
Blues goalie coach Jim Corsi believes four principles define goaltenders who can make the leap.
First, he says, is superior work ethic and attention to the detail. Second is just letting the action happen and not chasing pucks.
“The third level is you’re so in tune with the game that your team trusts you without a doubt,” said Corsi, speaking while on vacation in Italy. “The ultimate level, the fourth level, is you’re in the head of the opposition. The opposition looks at you and they say ‘This is one tough guy to beat’.”
Once the goalie coach to Sabres great Dominik Hasek, Corsi believes Allen, who he likens to a “fine wine with an excellent bouquet,” checks all those boxes.
“I think he can be one of the best in the league,” Corsi said, noting Allen’s quickness, athleticism, and intuitiveness. “I see him right there. I really do. Without a doubt. And he’s still young. I think he can still grow.”
A former second round pick, Allen’s numbers rose in each of his first three NHL seasons, highlighted by the six shutouts and .920 save percentage he posted in a careerhigh 44 starts last season.
The Blues are betting that he’s ready to lift off as a full-time No. 1.
Allen and Elliott, friends who will skate together in Wisconsin ahead of training camp, split the duties almost equally last year, with Elliott surging in front to start all but two post-season games.
Now it’s Allen’s crease, with 30year-old Carter Hutton firmly the backup.