When they boarded a plane and left St. Louis last week for a three-game road trip, the Blues were in trouble.
Their 6-1 start had faded in the rear-view mirror, replaced by an unsightly 0-4-1 skid that had the Blues questioning themselves and wondering what had happened to their two cornerstones from last season that were defense and goaltending.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock offered up what proved to be prophetic remarks last Tuesday before the team left town.
"I look at this as an unbelievable opportunity to build your team, but only if you're willing to look in the mirror," Hitchcock said. "This is an unbelievable opportunity to build a very strong fabric of your team. You just can't pass it up. If you pass it up it maybe never comes back."
Turns out Hitchcock was right about the "unbelievable opportunity."
Enter Jake Allen, a rookie goaltender whose minor-league season had been going fairly well at Peoria and who once helped Team Canada to the gold-medal match at the 2010 World Junior Championships.
Forced into action because of a groin injury to Jaroslav Halak and the struggles of Brian Elliott, Allen delivered. His first three NHL starts were road victories at Detroit, Calgary and Vancouver. Friday's win in Calgary included a stick save that was being called the league's "save of the year" even though it happened only 14 games into a 48-game season. Yes, it was that good.
With Calgary's T.J. Brodie taking a drop pass and preparing to shoot into what looked to be an empty net, Allen jutted his stick across the goal crease. The puck his the paddle of Allen's stick squarely, then bounced into the area before Allen snared it in his glove.
Brodie wasn't the only one left shaking his head after that one, now a staple on NHL highlight shows and can be seen on YouTube.com.
Allen's thievery continued Sunday night in overtime when he robbed Vancouver's Alexandre Burrows with a glove save.
Allen also refused to buckle in the shootout, stopping both Vancouver shooters while the Blues got shootout goals from T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald to complete the three-game sweep.
"I am not getting too far ahead of myself," Allen told reporters after Sunday's win. "You never know. You are not going to win forever. You just want to keep making the most of your chances, and that's what I am trying to do."
Allen's goaltending was just part of the Blues' new and improved equation for success.
Paying more attention to detail in the defensive zone, the Blues blocked 64 shots during the three-game road trip. That included 24 in the 4-3 overtime win over Detroit (Kevin Shattenkirk led the team with four), 23 on Sunday against Vancouver (Roman Polak had a whopping eight blocks) and 17 vs. Calgary (Ian Cole led the way with four).
The Blues also were getting more timely goals from more people and the power play produced three goals in nine chances.
Allen's sizzling play has at least kept him in the Blues' goaltending equation a little longer. Halak has been deemed healthy again and was Allen's backup on Sunday in Vancouver.
The Blues will surely get him a start soon, most likely Wednesday in Colorado if Hitchcock decides to stay with the hot hand and starts Allen on Tuesday at home vs. San Jose.
Elliott has been working hard, hoping to earn another opportunity for himself. The goaltending scenario will sort itself out, but Allen, who was the 34th overall pick in the 2008 draft, has definitely helped himself.