After going from the best in the West to missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons by one point, big changes were made to the St. Louis Blues roster in all areas besides for two.
The need for true centermen was filled with the acquisitions of Ryan O’Reilly from Buffalo and Tyler Bozak from Toronto. The team added height and grit on the wing by way of signing St. Louis native Pat Maroon.
The team also added David Perron for a third go-around after posting 66 points in 2017-2018 with the Vegas Golden Knights, adding solid depth up top.
And with the departure of Carter Hutton, backup goalie Chad Johnson came over from Buffalo. After ranking 30th in the league in power play percentage last season at 15.4%, the Blues’ front office made offensive changes that solidify power on all four lines for the first time since 2015-2016.
The defensive depth will remain the same as last season after the Blues’ defense combined for 170 points to assist a struggling offense. Their 222 GA ranked slightly below the league average of 244, and NHL.com ranked both Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko in the top-50 defensemen for the 2018-2019 season.
With Joel Edmundson improving his game both offensively and defensively, he averaged more than 20 minutes of ice-time per game along with Pietrangelo and Parayko. Regardless of the never-ending carousel of injuries that lingered throughout the defensive pairings, the Blues defense still managed to rank in the top-10 overall across the league in multiple categories all season.
The reasonable concern lies within goaltending. Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong made it clear heading into the offseason the team’s confidence still remained with starting goaltender Jake Allen for the 2018-2019 season.
Allen played 59 games in the 2017-2018 season after dealing with injury and lack of consistency in the net, and experienced his worst season wearing the note of his five-year career in the league.
While there were plenty of games with no goal support from the Blues defense, it’s hard to deny a 27-25-3 record with a .906 SV% and a 2.75 GAA simply isn’t acceptable for a starting goaltender in the NHL.
Luckily, backup goalie Carter Hutton was able to not only step up, but set seasonal record-highs within the NHL during Allen’s rough patches.
With Hutton’s departure in the 2018 offseason, the Blues signed Johnson who had a 3.55 GAA and and .892 SV % with the Buffalo Sabres in 2017-2018. Granted those statistics come from a smaller sample size of 36 games, but the numbers don’t bring security to a team who relied on a backup goalie for 32 games last season. A team that still missed the playoffs when that backup goalie performed with a 2.09 GAA and .931 SV %.
When Jake Allen is playing hot, he’s very hot. But when he’s cold, he’s freezing cold. From October of 2017 to January of 2018, Allen consecutively fell each month from a .926 SV % to an .876 SV %.
However, he consecutively rose back up each month ending the 2018 season with a .925 SV% in March and a .922 SV % in April. It’s a year-to-year trend that’s been continuous each season Allen has played more than 30 games. And it’s gotten worse with time.
A more solidified offense up the middle could prove to be effective on top of a healthy defense. But for now, time will be the deciding factor on whether keeping Allen in net as the starter for the 2018-2019 season was the correct decision by the Blues coaching staff and front office.