SAN JOSE -– The Blues’ decision to give Jake Allen his first start this playoffs isn’t an indictment of Brian Elliott, head coach Ken Hitchcock said on Saturday afternoon, a few hours before Game 4 at SAP Center.
“Zero reflection on Brian Elliott. Zero. It's a reflection on us,” Hitchcock said. “If we're going to win this series, get back in this series, we can't continue to allow three and four goals and expect to win games, not the way San Jose is playing right now. We have to amp it up defensively.”
Other than stopping the puck, Allen could help the Blues get the puck out of their end more quickly in that he’s a better puck handler than Elliott.
“We're more than comfortable playing either guy, but there's a big difference between the way the two guys play,” Hitchcock said. “There is a significant change between what Brian does and what Jake does as far as our defensemen goes. We'll have to see how that goes early in the game here.”
From the Sharks’ perspective, they got a little extra time to prepare for Allen when Hitchcock went public with the change on Friday afternoon.
Pete DeBoer, though, said the Sharks staff went into the series “expecting to see both guys.”
“The way that they played their goalies this year suggests we would probably see both guys. We prepared for both guys. It doesn’t change anything on our end.”
As for having success against goalies that are good with the puck, San Jose has some recent history to lean on.
“We played [Jonathan] Quick and [Pekka] Rinne in the first two rounds, arguably two of the top three puck handlers in the league. Nothing we haven’t seen before. I think both goalies have their strengths, and it’s pick your poison. They are both excellent goalies. We know they’re going to get good goaltending tonight whether it was Elliott or Allen. We have to be prepared to play our game and get to either one of them.”
Along with the goalie, Hitchcock said that the Blues will make “one change, for sure” on their back end, without getting into specifics.
He’ll leave his fourth line alone, though, after inserting Magnus Paajarvi and Dmitrij Jaskin into the lineup for the first time in the series on Thursday. Kyle Brodziak centered them.
“You could see the difference with two fresh guys coming in from where some of our players were at,” Hitchcock said. “I think it really helped us a lot.”
The Sharks will likely dress the same 18 skaters, having not allowed a goal in more than 150 minutes in two straight wins.
“I love our four line game. I’ve liked it all series,” DeBoer said.