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CHICAGO — Jake Allen knows that this hot streak can go the other way at any time.
But he’ll do his best to maintain where he’s at how, and that’s on the hot side of it, after a 4-0 shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday at United Center, the 20th of his NHL career which tied him for second in franchise history with Jaroslav Halak.
Allen’s rise from the start of the season is giving the Blues (18-5-6) one of the best, if not the best, goalie tandems in the league.
But after backstopping all 38 Chicago shots, including 17 in the third period, Allen is 5-0-2 on the road this season with a 2.11 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. Going back 13 regular-season road games, Allen is 7-1-5 with a 2.04 GAA and .935 save percentage.
His teammates see the Allen that was so incredibly good against the Minnesota Wild in the the 2017 first round of the playoffs, one in which helped the Blues stun Minnesota in a five-game series win and again in the second round against the Nashville Predators.
“Yeah, he’s dialed in,” Blues forward Jaden Schwartz said of Allen. “He’s in the zone, making huge saves, timely saves for us. We know how good of a goalie he is.
“Every player, every goalie has a rough few months or an off year in their career, and he’s a guy that just continues to work and continues … even when he’s not playing, he comes to the rink and he’s working and he’s getting better. Yeah, you can see how good of a goalie he is, and you can tell he’s confident right now.”
Yes, Allen is confident, and it was on full display silencing the United Center crowd, and for that matter, aside from an 18-second stretch at American Airlines Center last Friday against Dallas when the game was tied 1-1, Allen silenced that crowd. He silenced the crowd in Edmonton too. It’s what a goalie does, one that’s thriving on the road, and one that’s helping his team win again on a nightly basis.
“Yes and no. A lot of people don’t believe me when I say it, but I find it really tough to get into the crowd,” Allen said. “I’m sort of in my own mindset during the game. For me, the crowd doesn’t really do a whole lot. It’s just ironic how this whole situations played out.
“I don’t know (about feeling dialed in). I probably said it a couple weeks ago, I’m trying to get better every single time for me right now. That was my goal the first couple games of the year. I sat down and I said, ‘Let’s try to get better every single time.’ It starts at that point. Now I’m getting some games and closer to consecutive days gets you a little more in the groove. I’m just trying to give the boys a chance, and guys are playing great hockey in front of me.”
Countless times during his career, more so in the past couple seasons, Blues fans have been so divided on Allen. They either love him or have a dislike for him. Those that have loved him remember the guy that began his career with such promise and one that can display that dominant No. 1 form at any time. And then there are those that saw the struggles in recent seasons, one that saw Jordan Binnington come in and supplant him as the No. 1 netminder last season and help the Blues to their first-ever Stanley Cup. The season before, Carter Hutton challenged him for the cage, and Brian Elliott before that.
But what has not been forgotten is that Allen, 29, took his role as the backup last in stride, like a guy that has the team in mind even though from a personal standpoint, wants to be the guy, but is willing to do whatever it takes.
The Blues were so high on Allen at one point, general manager Doug Armstrong rewarded him with a four-year, $17.4 million contract on July 1, 2016. There are days when people felt like he’s earned it, and there are those that have felt like he hasn’t.
Whatever the feelings are, one thing Allen has done is continue to drive himself to be at his best, even though there are nights when nothing would go right, but Allen has always driven himself to do what’s best for the Blues, and that’s one of the reasons why teammates love him.
“Yeah, he’s a mentally tough kid,” Schwartz said. “He doesn’t give up on himself obviously. It’s never easy when you have a tough week or two. It’s never easy mentally and he’s done a great job of just continuing to work, believing in himself and he knows we’ve got all the belief in him. So, I think it’s just his work ethic, working with Davie (Alexander) and Binner, they do a great job every day and you can just tell when a guy is focused – just the way that he prepares — that he’s ready to keep building, and I think he’s got that mojo back.”
Monday’s game is a perfect example of Allen at his best. Being positionally and fundamentally sound, being square to shooters, coming out to challenge shooters and not back himself into the blue paint, control rebounds, use his teammates effectively and make the saves he isn’t expected to make.
That’s when teammates really have your back.