St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock discusses Ryan Reaves and recent losing skid
The numbers suggest that Jake Allen has been a far different goaltender at Scottrade Center this season than when the St. Louis Blues are on the road.
After Thursday’s 5-2 victory against the New Jersey Devils, Allen was 11-0-2 at home with one shutout.
Away from Scottrade, neither Allen nor the Blues — who are now 13-1-3 at home and 4-9-1 on the road — have looked the same.
Allen’s road splits include a 4-6-1 record, a .879 save percentage and a 3.35 goals-against average. He was replaced in the third period Tuesday in the Blues’ 6-3 road loss to Nashville after allowing five goals on 33 shots, but rebounded well two days later after allowing two early goals against the Devils.
Allen stopped 24 of 26 shots Thursday and got plenty of help from his teammates as they scored five unanswered goals after falling behind 2-0.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock hasn’t lost faith in the 26-year-old goaltender and put him back in goal Thursday to face the Devils. Allen’s overall numbers include a 15-6-3 mark with a 2.50 goals-against average and .908 save percentage.
“He’s our guy. You’ve got to stick with him,” Hitchcock said. “These are the adversity and growing pains you go through as a young starting goalie. You’ve got to learn to fight through this stuff. You’ve got to learn to battle through this stuff.
“It can’t be just one way. You don’t get to be a starting goalie without having to go through all the adversity that young guys have to go through.”
While Allen’s road woes have been well documented, it’s not like he is struggling while the rest of the team has played well on the road.
“Sure he’s got some bumps in the road, but we trust him,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve got a lot of faith in him, and for us, we’re going to just flat stick with him.”
Documentary series to debut Friday
While they are used to dealing with the media, the Blues have encountered many more camera crews this month while being followed around for the filming of “Road to the Outdoor Classics,” a weekly documentary series that makes its debut on the EPIX television network at 9 p.m. Friday.
“They do a good job of just kind of hanging around the group, not really getting in the way or anything like that,” Blues forward Alexander Steen said. “They’re great guys; we’ve really gotten to know them, and they’re doing a good job.
“There’s no distractions or anything like that. They’re very good at what they do, and it’s actually been kind of interesting and fun to have them around.”
The series, which includes player interaction and behind-the-scenes footage both on and off the ice, leads up to the Blues’ game with the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 2 in the NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic outdoor game.
The camera crews have been following the Blues since their Dec. 8 game against the New York Islanders.
Shuffling the defense
Known for juggling his lines on a fairly regular basis, Hitchcock on Tuesday instead showed off new defense pairings.
Alex Pietrangelo was paired with Joel Edmundson, while Jay Bouwmeester and Colton Paryako were together. The other pairing was Kevin Shattenkirk and newcomer Brad Hunt.
Hitchcock is seeking more communication and a bit of freshness with the new defense pairings.
“I think sometimes when you play together a long time, you go silent on each other,” Hitchcock said. “I’m not saying this is going to be here for a long period of time. We change forwards, and we always stay with the same two guys all the time, but we change the third guy just to create different energy.
“But we haven’t done that on defense. I just think opening up communication — playing with a new partner forces you to communicate and talk — and I think that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get a higher level of communication on the ice so that we can play faster.”
The Blues entered the New Jersey game on a two-game losing streak. They’ve had three of those this season, but each time stopped the losing skid before it reached three games, just as they did again Thursday.
How have the Blues managed to stop the losing so quickly?
“Home games,” joked Hitchcock, whose team was 12-1-3 at home before Thursday and 4-9-1 on the road. “We’re willing to look in the mirror. I think all of us know that we’ve got to play better on the road, and we can’t rely on home-cooking all the time.”
The Blues’ road performances have at times been more disjointed, with solid starts followed by rough finishes.
“We’ve shown on the last road some of our best hockey has been in the first half of the game, and some of our poorest hockey has been in the second half of the game,” Hitchcock said. “So we know that’s got to get fixed. But when we’re at home, we’ve got to continue and play consistent hockey.
“We’ve been able to put a lot of pressure on teams at home, we’ve played with a lot of diligence and great structure and so we’ve won a lot of games in the third period or the second half of games.”