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Blues hope goalie change alters momentum of series

Allen will replace Elliott for Game 4 with St. Louis down 2-1 in Western Conference Final

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / Staff Writer

SAN JOSE -- Ken Hitchcock put the decision on hold. After a disappointing Game 3, in which the St. Louis Blues were shut out again, leaving them trailing in the Western Conference Final 2-1 to the San Jose Sharks, the coach needed some time. Though the inkling of a goaltender swap had already crossed his mind, he needed to shut down the thought process, the emotions, the frustrations of Game 3. He needed to sleep on it and return to it in the morning.

Hitchcock made the decision the following day, around 9 or 10 a.m. local time Friday. After soliciting the opinion of his coaches and management, he came to the conclusion that it was time to put aside Brian Elliott and go to Jake Allen. He would make the goaltender switch, benching a player who had won two Game 7s this year and had been perhaps his team's best player during the first two series.

It was time for a change.

So Allen will start in Game 4 (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports), as the Blues try to even the series at two wins apiece before heading back to St. Louis for Game 5 at Scottrade Center on Monday. He will try to give the Blues a spark, to give them a chance. That might come not just from the change itself, but also from the way he plays the game.

"Some of it is just changing momentum for both teams hopefully," Hitchcock said. "But, you know, part of it is also the luxury. I've got a goalie that gives a different look. He plays a different style. He's very active in the net. He's very active at moving the puck, getting us out of transition. He's an awful good goalie, just like [Elliott] is.

"[Elliott] has run quite a distance here. We just feel like Jake's a guy that can help us change the momentum of the series."

It was something that Hitchcock had intimated might happen at the start of the playoffs, acknowledging that while Elliott was his starter, he believed that each of his two goaltenders would play a role in the series.

And so they will.

Since April 3, when he saw his last action during the regular season, Allen has played 49:57, twice coming in in relief of Elliott. He entered Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Dallas Stars 16:49 into the first period, and he came into Game 3 against the Sharks at 6:09 of the third period after Elliott gave up his third goal of the game.

That's not a lot of action of late, though Hitchcock said he's not concerned.

During the regular season, Allen had a 26-15-3 record with a 2.35 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. In the playoffs, Elliott has nine wins, a 2.34 GAA and a save percentage of .925.

Video: Hitchcock says Allen will start Game 4

The Blues have used each of their two goaltenders all season. They've needed both. That's why, Hitchcock said, it isn't that big a deal to the Blues that they're making the change.

"I think, quite frankly, we've had two guys all year, so it might be a story for people. But for inside the locker room and for us as coaches it is kind of an easy decision," he said. "It's probably easier for us than for other people because we've just trusted both guys so much.

"We trust Brian; even when there were bumps, we trusted Brian. I think this is a little bit different. This is a change in momentum."

As forward Alexander Steen said on Friday of the goalies, "They've been the best part of our team all season."

But the Blues need to do something differently. They need to alter something - though scoring goals would certainly help after going 150:45 without one - as they try to keep the Sharks from running over them and knocking them out of the postseason.

These are desperate times. These are desperate measures.

That's why they are going with a goaltender who might be able to help get the puck out of their zone, where it spent most of Game 3, and start the transition; a goaltender who might make his team more aware and alert in a game in which they need both.

"We have to make a change," Hitchcock said. "Everyone is on a short leash, forwards, [defensemen]. ... Everybody's on a short leash. Give us what you got, we'll see it from there."

It's Allen's turn to show the Blues, and the Sharks, what he's got. And with the Blues needing very much to take Game 4, they need the goalie switch to switch up the momentum, to be the tonic they need.

However, as forward Kyle Brodziak admitted Friday, "You never want to have to rely on a goalie change to have to push your team."

But this, right now, is what they have. Momentum change. Attitude change. Jake Allen in net.

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