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31 in 31

Three questions facing St. Louis Blues

Allen's consistency, power play among concerns

by Brett Amadon / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the St. Louis Blues.

 

[Blues 31 IN 31: Season previewTop prospectsFantasy breakdownBehind the Numbers]

 

1. Can Jake Allen be a consistent No. 1 goaltender?

Allen, who turned 28 on Aug. 7, was 27-25-3 with an NHL career-worst 2.75 goals-against average and .906 save percentage last season. After Jan. 1, Allen was 9-13-1 with a 2.99 GAA and .896 save percentage, last among 23 NHL goaltenders who played at least 25 games in that span. He will begin the season as the No. 1 goaltender, but with St. Louis signing Chad Johnson as a free agent, if Allen lacks consistency, he could split time like he did last season with Carter Hutton.

"I believe we have a chance to, in knowing [Allen] now better, whether it's a veteran guy like Chad Johnson, we also have a young player in Ville Husso, we have guys who can support him, give him the rest when he needs, give him the support that he needs," coach Mike Yeo said. "I'll also add on top of that, there was a long time last year where Jake wasn't winning hockey games, but we weren't scoring goals. And I think that the added support that we have up front, the moves that [general manager Doug Armstrong] made this summer, is going to benefit obviously the team, but it's going to benefit individuals. … It makes everybody's job a little bit easier."

Video: 31 in 31: St. Louis Blues 2018-19 season preview

 

2. Will they get scoring outside their top line?

The Blues were 24th in the NHL last season (223 goals; 2.72 per game), in large part because they didn't get much production outside of their first line of Brayden Schenn (70 points; 28 goals, 42 assists), Vladimir Tarasenko (66 points; 33 goals, 33 assists) and Jaden Schwartz (59 points; 24 goals, 35 assists), who were their only three players with at least 55 points.

The additions of Ryan O'Reilly (61 points; 24 goals, 37 assists), David Perron (66 points; 16 goals, 50 assists) and Tyler Bozak (43 points; 11 goals, 32 assists) should help balance out the scoring.

Yeo said he will experiment with his top six forwards in training camp.

"Right now, we have [O'Reilly] starting at center, starting Day One of training camp," Yeo said. "Now, whether it's going to stay that way, I don't know, but you're going to see Vladimir Tarasenko on his right side (on the top line).

"There will be times, obviously, where we are going to make some switches and we are going to try some different things. And we know some things that looking back on last year, whether it's a guy like [Tarasenko], we know that he can play with [Schenn and Schwartz]. But training camp is a great opportunity to try some different things to see what clicks, see what works, and we'll take advantage of that."

Video: CHI@STL: Tarasenko beats Berube on the breakaway

 

3. Will the power play improve?

The Blues were 30th in the NHL on the power play last season (15.4 percent) after they were eighth in 2016-17 (21.3 percent). Yeo, who was Minnesota Wild coach from 2011-16, has had one team finish in the top half of the NHL on the power play: The 2015-16 Wild were 15th (18.5 percent).

St. Louis could improve its power-play efficiency by incorporating more players who are right shots (Tarasenko, Schenn, Schwartz and Alexander Steen are left shots) and by getting more production out of the second unit. Bozak, whose 59 power-play points since 2014-15 were second on the Toronto Maple Leafs behind James van Riemsdyk's 67, and Perron, who had 18 power-play points for the Vegas Golden Knights last season after he had 13 with the Blues in 2016-17, are right shots.

O'Reilly, who led the Buffalo Sabres in power-play goals (15) and time on ice (291:35) last season, provides St. Louis with another center to use on either the first or second unit.

"Having a struggling power play last year and coming into that, I hope to help spark that and help to give it a new look and kind of use things that I've had success with in the past, see if they work and hopefully create some offense," O'Reilly said. "Because going forward, to be a winning team, you have to be clicking in those areas, you have to be successful in that."

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