TORONTO – Jake Allen has already saved 13 when he stretched to 14 in a shot that he knew he had little chance of stopping – a rebound for the NHL’s top goal scorer, Aston Mathews, who made his 57th season. His 50th in the last 50 games, and Allen fell face down on his crease, winning in pain.
I can feel the frustration of the 31-year-old goaltender at the Scotiabank Arena press box and I can feel his frustration since the game.
When Allen walked out of the Canadian dressing room, about two hours after Mathews scored that goal and lost 3-2 to Toronto Maple Leafs, we collided with each other.
“It didn’t look good,” I said.
“Season from hell,” he replied.
It started with the worst start to a campaign in the 113-year history of the Canadians, with Allen Kerry holding the fort in Price’s long-term absence – and playing behind a team redefining defense, and not in a good way.
He fought as hard as he could until he was hit in the groin in Boston on January 12, and then he underwent a difficult rehabilitation to return on March 17.
Since then, Allen has made 11 appearances in front of Montreal’s net and has faced 414 shots before being forced out by one of Matthews.
This could be the last one of Allen’s season.
If so, he still leaves a significant mark on this growing Canadian team.
Coach Martin St. Louis says, “The way he is a professional, his daily routine, his preparation, he is a great example for our young people.”
They are a team that has not given up in these difficult times that have seen them skate from wire to wire in one of the last positions in the NHL standings.
Despite dominating the first two terms, they did not give up the game. And much of that is due to a few like Allen, who worked day and night without complaint and fought every single play to prove their worth.
He has held himself and the team accountable, both in the dressing room and in the media room, and he has helped these players establish the habits necessary to advance their careers.
Samuel Montembelt, the 25-year-old who entered Saturday’s game without seeing a move on March 27 and immediately surrendered Matthews’ 58th goal of the season, must have learned from Allen.
“He’s great,” Montembelt said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s very supportive of me. I think his mentality, even in practice or at play, he fights for every shot and he never gives up. So, this is a great example for me to bring into the game.”
Just 28 seconds after Allen left the game, Mattembelt did just that after Mathews defeated him cleanly. He settled in and gave the Canadians a chance to stay within striking distance, conceding just one more goal so he couldn’t be guilty and saved two key saves against 5-on-3 in the third.
Allen watched from the sidelines, where he was already likely to spend more of his time, regardless, and closer to his long-awaited return to the Price game.
Still, he deserves to be reunited with Price once he arrives that day, backed him off the bench – as he made clear in his run to the 2021 Stanley Cup final in Montreal – and prepared himself to play.
“Every time you see a teammate go down, it’s really hard,” said forward Josh Anderson. “She’s been through a lot this year – recovering from an injury and her recovery – and she’s been incredible since she came back. It’s definitely a tough bounce for her.”
It’s also a tough bounce for Canadians, who have sacrificed more than $ 13 million from their pay cap, which many will consider the best goaltending pair in the league and have never benefited both players by staying healthy at the same time.
It is difficult to say what the future holds for both players, despite being under contract for the following year, but Allen has at least done what he was asked to do.
“She was awesome,” Anderson said. “He’s been in this league for a long time, a lot of great players, he’s played with goaltenders. He’s great with all the youngsters in the dressing room. And frankly, this year has been tough for everyone, but he’s a great leader in our team. Sure room.”