Blues goalie Jake Allen on Hitchcock, Yeo and Brodeur

The St. Louis Blues have moved into playoff position since promoting assistant coach Mike Yeo to replace the fired Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 1. There has also been a noticeable change in the team’s demeanour and the play of No. 1 goalie Jake Allen.

Netminder regains No. 1 form with new coach, daily work with future hall of famer

Blues goalie Jake Allen lost six consecutive starts leading to head coach Ken Hitchcock’s firing on Feb. 1 but has thrived under his successor, Mike Yeo. Through March 8, the 26-year-old Fredericton native boasted a 1.76 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in 12 starts since the all-star break. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Since the St. Louis Blues promoted assistant coach Mike Yeo to replace the fired Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 1, they are 9-6-0 and in playoff position in the NHL's Western Conference.

There has also been a noticeable change in the team's demeanour, says No. 1 goalie Jake Allen.

"Yeosie's been great for our team," praised Allen of the one-time Minnesota Wild bench boss. "I think every message he has is important. He brings a good attitude to the rink every day; he's always talking with all the players.

"He's determined to win and has really tried to help guys find solutions to play their best. He's always there to support you."

Allen endured one of the worst stretches of his three-plus NHL seasons to end January, losing six straight starts and posting a 4.06 goals-against average for the month. But he has flourished under Yeo with a scintillating .941 save percentage in 12 starts since the all-star break.

CBC Sports caught up with Allen, who spoke about his relationship (or lack thereof) with Hitchcock, the lessons learned under new goalie coach Martin Brodeur and being ordered by the Blues to stay home from a Jan. 20 game at Winnipeg.

CBC Sports: You were pulled five times in a seven-game stretch in January. After allowing three goals on 15 shots to Los Angeles on Jan. 12, Hitchcock told reporters that you had to "man up and get better." How were things between the two of you?

Jake Allen: "I didn't have a lot of communication with Hitch. I think you need to communicate. I like to know if [the coach] has a problem [with my play]. If you [want to] change something, come talk to me. It's the easiest solution."

CBC Sports: Martin Brodeur has said when goalies struggle, no one talks to them and that makes things harder because you feel by yourself. How did you relate to his words during your struggles in late January?

JA: It's tough to look great as a goalie. Most of the time, you're the one either letting in a goal or losing the game, so no one wants to say anything or upset you, but at the end of the day you might need some talking to. I think it goes a long way. We [goalies] have Marty on our side if [inconsistent play] was to arise again. He would talk to us and we'd have someone to bounce things off. We're pretty lucky.

Jake Allen, left, and Martin Brodeur were goalie partners with the Blues during the 2014-15 season. Nowadays, Brodeur doubles as the team's assistant GM and goaltender coach, giving Allen advice on following the puck and being set early for shots on goal. (Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images/File)

CBC Sports: Your goals-against average was 4.06 in January but dropped to 2.02 over 10 starts in February. To what do you attribute the return to form?

JA: I worked hard for two weeks in practice focusing on a couple of little things. I needed to get back to being consistent in my game. I was almost overdoing [things] sometimes and that can make things worse.

I think my practice habits have completely changed. I'm working on things that I never did before like rebounds and always being set skating-wise. I think that helped me turn the page.

CBC Sports: How have your on-ice sessions with Brodeur, the NHL's all-time winningest goalie and a sure-fire Hall of Famer, differed from those with previous goalie coaches?

JA: There are so many things he sees that not many other goaltending coaches would see just because of his experience. He's watched [backup] Carter [Hutton] and I long enough that he knows our game, our strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the day, it all [reverts] to the basics and that's what Marty's been preaching to us.

Puck in the centre of your chest, always have motion in your skating when the rush is coming at you, being square to the puck, understanding who's on the ice and where they are on the ice at all times, competing and having fun.

CBC Sports: What single piece of advice from Brodeur has been a benefit to your game?

JA: Being in the flow of play, always follow the puck and be set early. It's something you don't think about because you think you have all those little things mastered when you get to [the NHL]. It comes back to being ready for any shot, no matter where it is from the [centre] red line in, and always having your stick on the ice. It's a subtle difference that makes you feel so involved in the game and it's really helped me.

CBC Sports: Blues general manager Doug Armstrong ordered you to stay home from a Jan. 20 game at Winnipeg. How did you receive that message?

JA: It was an eye-opener. I was disappointed in myself. I didn't make it a big deal [but] a lot of people did. I was lost in the net and had to work my way out of a funk. I took a couple of days and practised, took a day off and waited for my next start [on Jan. 26]. It was nice to spend time with family and not worry about hockey or anything. For [management] to re-iterate the trust they have in me made it easier.

Ever since that point, I feel my game has been the best it has been all year. If I didn't have that [time off] it could have been a different story if [coach Ken Hitchcock] just threw me back in net [in Winnipeg].


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