Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Allen, Rinne Face off in Battle of Top Goalies

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Allen, Rinne Face off in Battle of Top Goalies

Article excerpt

The two best goalies in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs were Nashville's Pekka Rinne and the Blues' Jake Allen.

The two will go head to head, even though they'll be at opposite ends of the rink, when the Blues and Predators meet in the Western Conference semifinal series that starts Wednesday night.

There may be no one who knows both of them better than Blues goalie Carter Hutton, who has been the backup to both. Hutton was Rinne's No. 2 for three seasons before signing with the Blues this past offseason, where he became Allen's backup. "I'm not the backup," Hutton said with mock indignation. "I'm the starting backup."

Whatever you want to call him, he's been second fiddle to a couple of goalies who have been virtuosos this postseason. Allen almost single-handedly got the Blues past the Minnesota Wild in the first round, with a .956 save percentage and a 1.47 goals-against average. Amazingly, those are both second-best in the postseason to Rinne, whose numbers are .976 and 0.70 with two shutouts in a four-game sweep of the Western Conference leading Blackhawks.

So it's a rare perspective that Hutton has on a Western Conference semifinal that shapes up as a pitchers' duel.

"It's going to be different," Hutton said. "They're both playing so well. I've been with Jake this season, you see how strong he's playing and how good he is. I think the biggest difference with us heading into this series, compared to (Minnesota's Devan) Dubnyk, compared to Pekka is Pekka handles a lot of pucks. He does a really good job of getting out and eliminating dumps. It's something that we have to be aware of. He's one of those guys that he's a streaky goalie at the same time, so I think we have to do a good job of getting traffic and getting in there. At this time of year, everything's so fragile, you kind of repeat a lot of things that are said, but it's going to be a battle of the goalies. We've got two of the best going at it here."

The Blues' goalie situation this season is much different from the year before, when Allen and Brian Elliott shared the top spot. Former coach Ken Hitchcock never declared a winner, but Allen grabbed it early in the season. Then he got hurt and Elliott stepped in and thrived. Then Elliott got hurt and Allen came back. Finally, Allen got hurt one last time and Elliott led the Blues in the playoffs.

There was no competition this season. The Blues traded Elliott to Calgary, made Allen the No. 1 and signed Hutton as a free agent. He came into the job knowing he would be No. 2. There's an excellent chance that Hutton won't play again this season, but he's watched Allen's first-round play with nothing but admiration.

"It was great," he said. "He was locked in. It's something I'm happy to be a part of and to contribute in any way I can and help out. He's been phenomenal. I think it's been one of those years, a trying year for him. …

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