SAN JOSE, Calif • Jake Allen’s performance in the Blues’ 6-3 win over Phoenix Thursday night has earned the rookie goaltender another start.
After arriving in San Jose for Saturday’s matinee, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said the plan is for Allen to get the nod against the Sharks, and with back-to back games over the weekend, Jaroslav Halak will play Sunday against Anaheim.
Allen made 23 saves against the Coyotes, improving to 4-1 in five starts. That’s just one victory behind Halak, who is 5-2-1 in 10 starts this season.
“Last year, we were rewarding shutouts and now we’re rewarding wins," Hitchcock said, smiling. "The bar has changed a little bit."
Once again, Allen kept his composure when the game got away from the Blues briefly. The Coyotes turned two turnovers into two goals and took a 2-1 lead just 41 seconds into the middle period.
"I felt good," Allen said. "I know we got down early in the second (period). Just keep battling for these guys. They do it for me, so I've got to do it for them. That's the way you need to play. You're going to get scored on in hockey. Every game is not going to be a shutout.
"That's the way it went, but they did a really good job of keeping the pucks to the outside after that. And the offense showed their skill. A huge win. Good momentum boost."
And so the mystery continues as to why the Blues seem to play better with the rookie in net. The offense is outscoring opponents 20-13 in Allen's five starts, averaging four goals a game.
Obviously better goaltending leads to better results, but Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott aren't entirely to blame for the team's goals-against. Why is it that the team comes alive when Allen is in the crease?
"It's tough to put a finger on," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "I trust all of our goalies. We haven't been playing great in front of the other guys, so it's tough to sit here and pinpoint.
"We want to see him succeed, but we want to see everybody succeed, whether it's Jake, Jaro or Ells. We just seemed to play better in front of him right now than we are in front of the other guys. A lot of times we're not giving the other goalies opportunities to make the saves. Last night, we were able to limit (Phoenix) to few opportunities."
Blues forward Andy McDonald seems to be inching closer to a return. McDonald has missed the last four games with a knee injury, but has been skating with the team. In Thursday's morning skate, he participated on a line with Jason Arnott and Andrew Murray.
Being on the five-game road trip never was meant to be viewed that McDonald would play before the Blues returned home. He came along because skating with the team was what he needed. But could he play this weekend?
"I don't think so," Hitchcock said. "We'll see how he does today. But he feels really good. We're hopeful that with all this work that he's doing with us right now that, when we get back, he should get closed to going."
Meanwhile forward Alex Steen, who has missed four games with a shoulder injury, has resumed skating in St. Louis. Despite being on the ice alone, however, Steen's shoulder condition remains status quo, but he does plan to continue skating every day, which is a sign of some progress.
I have no new information on forward Vladimir Tarasenko, although I can confirm that he has not resumed skating.