With the Blues’ recent struggles, it has been clear that something needs to change. The Blues offense continues to lack consistency, the Blues power play is still one of the worst in the league, and it appears as though the Blues perform better on the penalty kill than they do any other time of the game. The Blues have discussed solutions to these problems. For instance, it was rumored that the Blues were looking to trade for another forward to replace Jaden Schwartz, though the likelihood of this happening is now much slimmer with the appearance of rookie Tage Thompson. The only place the Blues can really turn to for a change is the goaltender, and fortunately for the Blues, they have one of the best tandems in the NHL in Hutton and Allen. However, conflicts have arisen recently over the two netminders. With the Blues on a downward slope…should Hutton be given the starting position over Jake Allen?
Let us establish first that this article is intended to take an unbiased approach to the conflict and simply provide facts about both of the Blues beloved goalies. First, there is the case of Jake Allen. Jake has started 32 of the Blues’ 42 games so far this season. In these 32 games, Jake is 18-12-2 with a 2.57 Goals Against Average (GAA) and a .913 save percentage (SV%). There have been 89 goals scored on Allen this season at the halfway point, and if he continues at this pace, a bad record will be broken. Jake allowed 138 goals last season, a career high, though it was his first year in the starting position. With 89 goals given up already this season, if he were to match this number in the second half, he would give up 178 goals. That is 40 more than last season, which doesn’t look good on Jake’s end. The reason this number is so much higher could be because of the shots against Jake were also to be matched in the second half, Jake would face 1,858 shots this season compared to the total of 1,620 shots he faced in the 2016-17 season. 238 more shots may not seem like a big number, but to a goalie, it means a world of difference. This is, of course, hypothetical. It is certainly not guaranteed that Jake will face that many shots in the second half, or allow that many goals. However, if Jake does not improve his performance in the second half, he may not see much more of the net. 178 goals on 1,858 shots would give Allen a .904 SV%….his worst save percentage in his career. However, there are some positives to Jake’s performance. His Quality Start percentage (QS%) is .594. The league average is 53%. This is the highest QS% of Allen’s career, and the fact that he is above the league average shows that he is at least an above-average starter, which should relieve a few of those thinking that this entire passage was going to point out more negative things. Of his 33 starts, 19 of them have been quality starts, according to Hockey Reference. Quality starts are determined by save percentage, of course. If a goalie matches his season save percentage or improves it in a game, then the game is deemed a quality start. A start where a goalie’s save percentage falls below his average SV% is not a quality start. This shows that Allen has had 19 games where his SV% has been at or above his season average of .915.
Now let’s take a look at Carter Hutton’s case. Hutton is 7-3-0 this season in 10 games played. This makes sense, because he has been backing up Jake Allen. Hutton has faced 323 shots, and has allowed just 18 goals. This is excellent for a backup goalie. Of his 10 starts, 9 of them have been quality starts, bringing his QS% to .900. This is impressive because Hutton would have to have a better save percentage or match it in 9 games. His save percentage is .944, nearly .030 more than Allen’s. However, the sample size for Hutton is much smaller than Allen’s simply because he hasn’t been the starter, so we cannot conclude that based on these statistics, Hutton would perform better than Allen if he were to have played in the 32 games that Allen did. However, a 1.71 GAA and a .944 SV% seems start-worthy, especially when the Blues are desperately looking for life. If we were to take the 323 shots Hutton has faced and multiply it by 3 to attempt to match the amount of starts Allen has had, then Hutton would have faced 969 shots. If we were to also multiply the number of goals he has allowed by 3, he would have allowed 54. Compared to Allen’s 89 on 929, it seems that the statistical Carter Hutton would have performed better than the statistical Jake Allen in those 32 games.
Projected statistics are not always accurate, but what we can note is that Carter Hutton is certainly having a phenomenal year for a backup goaltender, and Allen is having an average season for a starting goaltender. In a time when the Blues are struggling, it is hard to choose between the tandem. Do you go with the goalie who has been the starter and has the most experience with starting, or do you roll the dice and switch your backup goalie to a starter and your starter to a backup goalie? Mike Yeo has informed us that they will be starting Carter Hutton again on Thursday night against the Vegas Golden Knights. It seems as though the Blues are making the decision one game at a time at this point, and it appears as though the Blues will continue going with the hot hand. Right now, the hot hand is Carter Hutton.