Hitch thinks ‘goaltending is the least of our problems’
For the umpteenth time in their tortured franchise history, the St. Louis Blues didn’t get the goaltending they needed.
Sure, there were other reasons the Blues failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs in 2015, but Jake Allen’s .904 save percentage was a definite factor. The 24-year-old did not play his best when the series was on the line.
Allen was, of course, named the Blues’ playoff starter after head coach Ken Hitchcock took the job away from Brian Elliott. (Just weeks before the start of the postseason, it was the veteran who appeared to be the guy.)
In Game 6 against Minnesota, Allen allowed two soft goals and was pulled. The Blues went on to lose the game, and with that the series. Allen had also struggled in Game 5, allowing four goals on 19 shots in a 4-1 loss.
Despite all that, Hitchcock today expressed confidence in his netminding tandem.
“I think the goaltending is the least of our problems,” Hitchcock told CBS Sports 920 radio. “I get the fact there were three goals that went in that were ugly. That’s the growth of a young player.
“We got two guys who are more than capable of carrying the load here. I think goaltending is going to be our strength moving forward. We’ve got a young guy emerging and a veteran guy who’s on top of his game right now and playing the best of his career.
“Selfishly, that was one of the things I looked at coming back. I don’t think you can win without really good goaltending. I think we’ve got two guys that challenge each other. I’m comfortable. I feel like Jake Allen is really, really going to grow from there, and I like where both guys are at.”
Heading into next season, Hitchcock’s main focus will be increasing the pace at which the Blues play.
“For me, it’s not a new style that we need to play, it’s more pace,” he said. “How do we get more pace in our game? How do we become more of a threat off the rush? How do we become more of a threat on transitions, on counters? How do we make people pay for their mistakes, so that just we’re not just stuck in half-court mode?”
All good questions. We’ll see if he and GM Doug Armstrong can come up with the right answers.