It shouldn’t be shocking at all any more, but the St. Louis Blues may have to enter the post-season dealing with another injury. And once again, two major pieces have been bitten by the injury bug. The Blues announced Monday that captain David Backes and netminder Jake Allen appears to have gone down with a lower-body ailment.
Allen, 25, looked to have suffered his injury when attempting to make a stop late in the first period of Sunday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. Sliding to his right, Allen’s skate seemed to dig into the ice awkwardly, not allowing Allen to move properly within his crease. A whistle came shortly after Allen’s save attempt, and Allen took his time getting to his feet, hunching over before pushing himself up. Allen was able to remain in the contest for the final 3:17 of the first period, but come the second period, Allen was nowhere to be found.
Backup goaltender Anders Nilsson was out on the ice to start the second frame, but the 26-year-old said he was surprised to have gotten game action. Nilsson said he wasn’t sure what injured Allen, but did see him taking his time to get to his feet late in the first period.
“I noticed he stayed down a little longer, but I didn’t see what happened,” Nilsson said post-game. “I didn’t see what happened. I was a little surprised when they said he’s not playing in the second. Hopefully it’s not too bad, and hopefully he can be back on the ice soon.”
As for Backes, his lower-body injury flew under the radar. Backes skated nearly 17 minutes, scored the game-opening goal for the Blues and assisted on Troy Brouwer's goal late in the third period. Backes didn't take a shift in the final three minutes of the game, but nothing seemed out of place in a game that was firmly in St. Louis' control.
Backes, 31, has been effective at both ends of the again this season for the Blues, chipping in 21 goals and 45 points. He's a key cog of St. Louis second line, and being without him to start the post-season would be an incredibly tough loss for the Blues, though not insurmountable. However, given that he's one of few players who have been healthy all season for St. Louis, it's an incredibly bad break that he would fall injured with only three games remaining in the campaign.
The biggest concern for the Blues and Allen is that he has tweaked or re-injured the same knee that kept him sidelined for 17 games earlier this season. Up until that injury, Allen had been the Blues’ starting netminder, but veteran Brian Elliott came in during Allen’s injury and took the starting job over with stellar play. Unsurprisingly, given how the Blues’ season has gone, Elliott then fell injured, leading to Allen taking back the starting gig for 11 straight games. Allen once again lost the job to Elliott, though, and Allen’s veteran counterpart has played four of the past seven games.
Of course, with the way Elliott is playing, he was likely to get the bulk of the starts leading up to and in the post-season — he currently leads the NHL in save percentage, has three shutouts in his past five games and the league’s second-best goals-against average — but Allen’s injury may leave the Blues without the security blanket of their young netminder in the chance Elliott turns in a rough start or falls injured himself. As a goaltending duo, Allen and Elliott have been great, and with the way the season has gone in St. Louis having two healthy goalies who are capable of the starting job seems like a necessity come the post-season.
It’s incredible St. Louis’ season hasn’t been derailed at all as almost no one in the Blues’ room has been safe from injury this campaign. And given how Hitchcock has been able to have his team overcome injuries, it’d be a shame were one more blow to the roster be enough to send the Blues packing come the post-season. It appears it may be up to Elliott to make sure that doesn't happen.