Thursday, April 8, 2021

If Blues are going to make a playoff push, Binnington will have to be the catalyst

Goalie's skills were on full display Wednesday in 
50-save effort of a 3-1 win against the Vegas Golden Knights

ST. LOUIS -- Jordan Binnington stood at the edge of the Blues bench, and offered up two words on the postgame show of Bally's Sports Midwest.

"We're coming," the Blues' netminder said.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (middle) makes one of his NHL career-high
50 saves in a 3-1 win against Vegas on Wednesday.

There's that swag Craig Berube was looking for, something the Blues coach felt had been missing from the Blues' netminder, although he felt he never lost it.

But it was on full display Wednesday in a 3-1 Blues win against the Vegas Golden Knights, ending the Blues' seven-game losing streak (0-6-1) and eight-game home losing streak (0-6-2).

Binnington made a career NHL-high 50 saves in the game, as Vegas (25-11-2) kept coming and coming and coming, pumping shot after shot after shot, only to be thwarted away by No. 50.

Yes, 50 went for 50, and the Blues (17-16-6) needed each and every one of them to snap their losing funk.

Reminded you of Game 7, didn't it? When Binnington was the show early before the Blues took control to win the Stanley Cup for the first time against the Boston Bruins.

Remember how good Binnington was then? The Bruins do.

Yes, it was a stark reminder of just how good Binnington, who less than a month ago (March 11) signed a six-year, $36 million extension and was getting the wrath of some very impatient Blues fans because of shoddy numbers thus far in the season.

Because Binnington has been anything but that $6 million a year goalie in his past 14 starts. He is 2-8-3 with a 3.22 goals-against average and .888 save percentage. Not exactly a top-notch effort.

Binnington was swallowing up everything but the kitchen sink Wednesday, it was a stern reminder that this is a Stanley Cup-winning goalie who at a moment's notice can rise up and win a game when called upon.

"Binnington was unbelievable tonight," Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko said. "We're confident in 'Binner,'' ... Tonight, he was awesome. There is nothing else to say." 
What else can one say about an effort in which the goalie faced 51 biscuits of vulcanized rubber? 


One thing is certain with 17 games remaining in the regular season: if the Blues are going to sneak back into playoff contention, Binnington will have to carry the team on his back. He will have to be their rock, like he was against the Vegas onslaught that included 21 shots faced in the second and 39 in the final two periods.
But the swagger was back on display.

"Swagger is a great way to talk about 'Binner'," said defenseman Jake Walman, who netted his first NHL goal in the third period with 6:29 remaining. "He always carries himself with swag. All throughout the dressing room he gets the boys going, he’s a rock back there, he played great tonight and I think he’s one of the best goalies in the league."

The Blues trail the Arizona Coyotes by three points for fourth in the Honda West Division. They have a game in hand and another head-to-head meeting with the Coyotes. 

And if they are to have any chance of gaining entry into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Binnington will drive the forces.

"It's not always going to be perfect," Binnington said. "It's how you respond to adversity or just finding more digging deep inside. We needed a little more. We played a great game tonight. We've just got to keep building off that.

"We're competitors and we're going to fight until the end."

Berube has pushed the right buttons as far as Binnington is concerned, even keeping him on the straight and narrow when the opportunity arises and the utmost focus is needed.

"Yeah, he played great," Berube said of Binnington. "When you play Vegas, you have to play well -- everybody has to play well -- they're a very good team. Binner led the way."

There are 17 games remaining on the schedule, including a trio of dates against the Minnesota Wild (two here and one up there on Monday).

And with time winding down, Berube will focus on the task at hand, and that's to get the Blues back among the top four years within the division. He's looking for Binnington to, "regain his swagger." It's something that Binnington said never went away.

Regardless, look for Binnington to get the majority of the 17 games because quite frankly, they're in playoff mode now, and they need as many wins -- and points -- as possible..
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Jordan Binnington acknowledges the crowd after a 50-save performance
in a 3-1 win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday.

"I think anytime you see your goalie with that kind of a game and what he's doing, it really loosens you team up a little bit to play and make plays, and that helps your goal scoring. It makes you play a little bit more free. So it's very important."

Let's face it, the Blues are as good as Binnington, and they'll only hope the Ontario native gets on a hot streak.

"Just play free and compete," Binnington said. "There were a couple second-chance opportunities and just the battle team-wide. I would say the battle, having that fire and that will to win as a group. It was good."