ST. LOUIS — Jake Allen isn't spending a lot of time looking at himself in the mirror posing for the next cover shot in The Hockey News.
Despite an 8-1 start during his first lengthy stay in the NHL, the St. Louis Blues rookie goaltender is the same quiet, unassuming guy from Fredericton, New Brunswick.
He saved the puck from his first NHL shutout to give to his dad for framing. He still works with young goalies at local hockey camps back home.
Allen also realizes the opportunity he has been given is special, a challenge he welcomes and to this point has thrived in.
For now he has traded the bus rides, budget hotels and complimentary breakfasts of the American Hockey League for chartered jets and room service.
But his job remains the same -- keeping pucks out of the net.
Whether he gets to the next game in a jet or a pickup truck matters little at this point. The 22-year-old Allen is in the NHL, where he's always dreamed of playing.
"I wasn't going to let it slip. I might not ever get a chance again ...," said Allen, the 34th overall pick in 2008 who had a 2.19 goals-against average and .920 save percentage before Tuesday's start in Vancouver. "There's so many people trying to take your spot, not just in this organization but everywhere else. Once you get a shot at it, you don't want to take it for granted."
Allen's first chance came while starter Jaroslav Halak was out with a groin injury, as a backup to Brian Elliott. When Elliott lost five straight decisions in early February, Allen got the call and he won three of four starts on the road.
When the goaltending failed to improve upon Halak's return, and the team couldn't protect leads in losses to Dallas and Los Angeles, Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong summoned Allen from Peoria again.
Allen has started five of the last six games, winning all of them, and has become one of the NHL's hottest stories.
"(When) you make a goalie a second-round pick, you can't make mistake on those," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Those have to be prime-time players and that's what he's proving every day -- that he's becoming a prime-time player. We expected this when we drafted him and we expected this when he matured."
During Allen's five-game win streak, he has compiled a 1.79 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. The Blues have rewarded his success with more time in net, and Allen has taken the opportunity and run with it.
"That's the thing, you grind it out in the minors for a while and you get up here and get a taste of this ... you really want this," Allen said. "You try to give that fuel to the fire. You want to stay up here and you want to do your best.
"We have a great team here. We can do a lot of good things."
Golf and hockey do mix
Allen took up golf as a youngster and eventually became good enough to compete against some of the top golfers his age in the province of New Brunswick.
He believes some of the same attributes that helped him in golf have helped him with goaltending.
"It's the same thing," he said. "If you hit a bad tee shot or hook it in the woods or something, what are you going to do? Are you just going to quit right there? Next shot you've got to go up, drive the ball and try to put it on the green and save yourself."
That hooked drive or wedge hit over the green is the golf equivalent of allowing a bad goal.
"In hockey, I could let a bad goal in from the blue line," Allen said. "It's going to happen throughout the course of the year. You just have to take a couple deep breaths and come back stronger, keep consistent.
"Like in golf, you can't let one bad shot ruin your round. In hockey you can't let one bad goal change the game."
History repeats itself
This isn't the first time in his career that Hitchcock has seen a young goalie emerge and make himself a viable option. It happened before during previous coaching stops in Dallas (Marty Turco) and Columbus (Steve Mason).
"This is a very similar story," Hitchcock said. "(In Columbus), Pascal (Leclaire) had a heck of a year the year before, a lot of shutouts, played great and then got hurt. We were thinking of playing Steve 15 to 20 games and probably in the minors.
"Then when Passer got hurt, (Mason) ended up playing all the games."
An injury to Dallas veteran goalie Ed Belfour gave Turco his first chance.
"Eddie got hurt and Marty came in and played great and Marty's career took off from there, so I've gone through this twice to be honest with you," Hitchcock said. "This is very familiar ground."
Dealing with change
It's hard to evaluate Allen's immediate position with the franchise, especially given the contracts of Halak ($4.5 million next season) and Elliott ($1.9 million next season). Winning takes care of a lot.
"I'm just coming to work every day, it doesn't matter whether I'm here or Peoria," he said. "Here at the rink you're putting on the pads and doing the same job. Obviously it's a little different atmosphere and a different mentality, being (in the NHL). But this is where I want to be, I want to stay here so I'm trying to prove that point.
"It's the same game. It's something I've been doing my whole life and I'm just trying to do it and perfect it every day."