Goal­tend­ing carousel

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - JONAS SIEGEL

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.

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