Thursday, January 10, 2019

Binnington, young guys star for Blues in 4-1 win over Canadiens

Goalie allows one goal in second NHL start following 
shutout, Blais, Sundqvist, Thomas get goals in home win

ST. LOUIS -- With each passing save made by Jordan Binnington and with each crowd roar, it's apparent that the Blues' goalie thrust onto the scene is taking the NHL by storm.

And the 88th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft doesn't appear that he wants to go anywhere else. 

Two starts, two wins for Binnington, and the only goal he allowed in a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens Thursday at Enterprise Center came off the skate of his teammate.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington makes a breakaway save on Montreal's
Phillip Danault in the first period of a 4-1 St. Louis win Thursday.

Binnington made 28 saves to follow up on his shutout Monday in a 3-0 win at Philadelphia and with the help of some younger Blues (Robert Thomas, Oskar Sundqvist and Sammy Blais each scored), Binnington is 2-for-2 and poised to get the Blues (18-20-4) back to relevance, and standing toe-to-toe and beating Carey Price in the process.

"I'm happy with that one," Binnington said. "Yeah, it's pretty cool. At the same time, it's my first start at home. I'm pretty excited about that. It was an exciting game, entertaining. We're happy with that outcome."

Jake Allen has competition again, and the calm demeanor Binnington has brought may be just what the doctor ordered for an underachieving team that also got a boost from the NHL debut of Mackenzie MacEachern.

"He's done great," Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said of Binnington. "The first couple games, when he got thrown in it's a tough situation, but the starts, he's been lights out. That's awesome."

Binnington has played in four games, and the relief appearances coming in for Allen? Scrap them. They are obviously nothing compared to when a goalie knows he's going to be the guy, and Binnington has exhibited that quite well.

"It's always different when you start the game," Binnington said. "You can dictate from the start and it's your game. I've said that before. It's better when you get the start, I'd say."

Blues interim coach Craig Berube is playing it cool with the goaltending situation but knows he's got one that looks like wants in for the long haul.

"Yeah, listen, he’s played two games and he’s played well," Berube said. "And we’ve played well in front of him.

"(But) solid again. Unlucky on the one goal. It goes off our guy [Alex Pietrangelo], but you know, made big saves at big times. He looked really confident in net to me."

Confident. Something the Blues haven't displayed on a consistent basis. But Binnington is giving it to them with the timely saves.

"I think everyone feels like, 'OK, he stepped up made a big save. He kept us in this game,'" Sundqvist said. "And now we just keep going with this momentum that he gets for us with that save.

"I think the whole bench was standing up there after (one) save."

Take your pick, which one? 

Two of Binnington's biggest saves came off a 2-on-1 against Montreal defenseman Victor Mete with 16:17 remaining in the third period and another on Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin, who came into the Blues zone with speed and split the defenseman before coming in alone with 6:06 remaining.

"I got a piece of it and I felt it pop up," Binnington said of the save on Mete. "You kind of just hope for the best and hope the d-man was there to kind of block the goal line too. It was a fortunate play.

"I think I liked that Drouin save where he kind of came in past the d-man. I liked that one."

By then, the game was in hand, and thanks to two strikes in the first period, the Blues led 2-0.

Thomas scored a power-play goal 1:56 into the game to make it 1-0 after Ryan O'Reilly followed up with a couple rebounds of Vladimir Tarasenko's shot, and Thomas was on the doorstep to pop a second chance past Price.

Unfortunately for the Blues, they lost Thomas midway through the period to an upper-body injury when he slid hard with his left shoulder into the offensive zone boards.

Thomas stayed on the bench for a bit but went to the locker room and never returned.

"I'll find out more tomorrow when he gets evaluated by doctors and stuff like that," Berube said of Thomas. "... He's been really good for a while now. It's unfortunate … so we hope that it’s not too bad and he's OK."

Sundqvist's shorthanded goal was a thing of beauty, especially the pass O'Reilly, who has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) the past eight games), feathered to Sundqvist off a 2-on-1.

Sundqvist was able to go forehand, backhand and slide a shot past Price's left skate at 16:24 of the first to make it 2-0.

"I don't know how I got the puck, but Carl [Gunnarsson] kind of swung it and it just ended up in my skates," Sundqvist said. "I saw right away that we were going to have a 2-on-1. Obviously O'Reilly's a way better passer than me, so I was just trying to give it to him as quick as possible.

"I didn't think a lot. That was the first thing that came to my mind."

Bouwmeester got in on the act and scored on a 2-on-1 at 6:04 of the second to make it 3-0. 

The Blues were doing a good job of turning Montreal over and transitioning the puck from defense to offense well, and Bouwmeester took a Robby Fabbri pass to snap it over Price's right shoulder.

"An odd man rush is usually off turnovers," Bouwmeester said. "The product of ... and not giving them a big gap but sometimes that's just on the other team. Overall, I think we played pretty good, moved it good, didn't spend a ton of time in our end. That's what we wanted.

"I haven't had a breakaway in a while. I get the odd one in practice. It was good."

Binnington proved to be mortal. He was beaten when Brendan Gallagher's pass attempt on a Montreal power play caromed off Pietrangelo's skate and past him at 9:02 of the second to make it 3-1.

The crowd showed its appreciation by cheering his shutout streak end at 105:24 in the NHL and 151:00 including the AHL where he also had a shutout. He's allowed that lone goal in his past 136:24 in the NHL.

"He said he was sorry," Binnington said of Pietrangelo. "He didn't mean to do it. You can't really apologize."

While Binnington was doing his part to keep it 3-1, Blais was scoring his first goal this season and second NHL goal a 9:19 on a beautifully outletting puck from defense to offense. Pietrangelo transitioned it to Sundqvist, who gave Blais a puck in stride and he was able to split a pair of defensemen with speed and snipe one over Price.

"Yeah, that's how we want to play," Sundqvist said. "And when we do it, we're a tough team to beat and we're creating a lot of scoring chances. So that's the mindset we're gonna have to have every game.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Robert Thomas (18) scores on a rebound past Canadiens
goalie Carey Price in a 4-1 St. Louis win.

"... Just coming with a lot of speed. And even in the forecheck and stuff like that, we're making them turn the puck over. As you said, we had a lot of odd-man rushes and we should score a couple more goals."

So now as the Blues embark on a road trip that will have them away from home for the next four, nine of 10 and 22 of the next 30, which way will Berube go Saturday in Dallas? Binnington doesn't care.

"I'm not really thinking about it," Binnington said. "Jake's playing great too. If it's him or it's me, I'm happy to be here. Hopefully the team keeps winning."

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