There’s plenty Jordan Binnington has done well this season.
He won when it mattered and helped the St. Louis Blues claw back from the NHL’s basement. He handled the pressure that came along with a late-season run into a divisional playoff spot. He made the saves he needed to, put up excellent numbers for a first-year keeper and even threw in a few shutouts for good measure. Binnington also brought a steadying presence and cool-headed approach to the crease that St. Louis hasn’t had in some time. That the rookie netminder found himself in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy and among the finalists for the Calder Trophy as one of the league’s top freshmen is proof enough that his play was outstanding.
But one of Binnington’s most exceptional attributes this season – and one he has put on display a number of times throughout the campaign and into the playoffs – has been his ability to bounce back from a bad outing, which is exactly what he’ll be tasked with come Monday’s Game 2 between the Blues and San Jose Sharks.
In Game 1 of the Western Conference final, Binnington was bombarded. Though he faced only 24 shots, the St. Louis starter was beaten five times on the evening and his five-goal against performance, which came complete with a .792 save percentage, was the worst single-game statistical output since he started laying the groundwork for an unthinkable rise to prominence back in mid-December. True, not by a great margin – he posted a .793 SP in Game 3 of the opening round against the Winnipeg Jets – but Binnington has not had a game as poor as Saturday’s since taking over the Blues’ No. 1 job.
Some will argue, and rightfully, that Binnington’s performance wasn’t on him, that he did his job when called upon but that any netminder, even a prime-aged Dominik Hasek, would have surrendered at least four goals against facing the same chances. Binnington surrendered the game’s first goal on a perfectly executed 2-on-1 with Logan Couture as the triggerman. No chance. The second came on a 5-on-3 power play, and Joe Pavelski only jammed home his marker after Binnington made a stunning pad save. Maybe Binnington should have had the Sharks’ third, a Kevin Labanc wrister, but the fourth was a dazzling solo effort by Timo Meier off of a brutal giveaway. The fifth was an odd bounce that typified the kind of night it was for Binnington and the Blues as a whole.
Regardless of which stops Binnington should and shouldn’t have been able to make, though, the fact remains he enters Game 2 of the series with something to prove and with a job to do to ensure that St. Louis doesn’t head home facing a two-zip series deficit against a Sharks team that hasn’t lost consecutive games since the early stages of the opening round. And that’s where Binnington’s bounce-back ability comes in.
Throughout the season, the netminder’s record hasn’t been without its blemishes, and while he hasn’t lost often, he has either appeared in or been the goaltender of record in 13 Blues losses prior to the Game 1 defeat. But what should give St. Louis confidence in their keeper heading into Game 2 is that Binnington’s record in contests after a loss is excellent and his performances indicate San Jose is going to need Martin Jones to win a goaltending duel if the Sharks are to take a 2-0 series lead.
Consider that in the contests after those 13 losses, which includes everything from outright ugly outings to narrow playoff defeats, Binnington has posted an 10-2-1 record, including three playoff wins, one regulation playoff loss and one playoff overtime defeat. And when the Blues have lost consecutive games with Binnington between the pipes, he has rarely, if ever, been the issue. In fact, only once this season has he followed up a loss in which he was the goaltender of decision with a single-game SP below .900, and his numbers post-defeat are stellar: he’s stopped 335 of 358 shots he’s faced, including one shutout. That’s good for a .936 SP.
The Blues should have all the more faith in Binnington, too, given that it’s not only after losses that he’s brought his ‘A’ game the next time out. Regardless of wins and losses, there are 13 occasions in which Binnington has posted a sub-.900 SP in a single contest. In subsequent contests, he has gone on to stop 294 of 320 combined shots, including two shutouts. That’s good for a .919 SP, which has helped Binnington to an 8-4-1 record after he has a subpar performance. And going one step further, Binnington has also had a handful of games in which his single-game statistics see him post an. 850 SP or lower. In his subsequent games, he’s posted one shutout, stopped 127 of 136 shots, posted a .934 SP and has a 3-1-1 record.
So, do the Blues bring the series level? Doing so goes beyond Binnington. Offensively, St. Louis is going to need a similar performance. Defensively, the Blues need to be more responsible with the puck, as turnovers were particularly costly in Game 1. But if his past performances are at all indicative of what he’ll bring to Game 2, count on Binnington bringing it Monday night and giving St. Louis every opportunity to level the conference final.
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