Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Binnington gave Blues every opportunity to win; too bad his teammates didn't follow his lead

Goalie played phenomenally with 46-save effort before running 
out of bullets in 4-1 loss to Avalanche in Game 1 of first round series

DENVER -- The moment Jordan Binnington robbed Mikko Rantanen midway through the second period, there was the feeling something special was about to unfold.

The netminder did his part to help the fourth-seeded Blues steal a Game 1 win against the top-seeded Colorado Avalanche Monday night at Ball Arena.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (50) makes one of 46 saves in a 4-1 loss to
Colorado in Game 1 of a first-round series on Monday.

His save on the sharp-shooting Rantanen off a 2-on-0, mind you, when he was able to, from a splits position, kick up the left pad and rob the Finn of a tap-in goal. There were more to be had, maybe not of that caliber, but other countless clutch saves were adding up to possibly being a special night.

Instead, Colorado's top weapons took over.

Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, who combined for three third-period goals and help the Avs pull away with a 4-1 win in Game 1 of the first round series.

Colorado, which peppered Binnington and the Blues with 50 shots for the game, kept coming, and coming, and coming. Most of the night, and Binnington nearly had an answer for each and every chance.

He was the perfect insect repellent, the best can of Raid money can buy. But at some point, the can runs dry, and the Blues' goaltender just ran out of steam. 

"That's him and that's what I think gives us confidence," Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "If we're better in front of him, we're going to have a chance and beat these guys. I know for myself, I've got to be better defensively and find a way to slow them down and make it more difficult on them, especially that top line. A couple late mistakes I make and my line, we have to be better at and if we clean up that, it puts ourselves right in the game. Get our rest, make our adjustments and get ready to take the next game."

Binnington, who made a playoff career-high 46 saves, also robbed Tyson Jost of a fortuitous breakaway, not once but twice, when an errant puck caromed off a Colorado player right to Jost, but Binnington would not be denied ... again.

It was a 1-1 game at the time after Jordan Kyrou scored from the slot at 16:31 of the second to quiet the crowd of 7,741 and put the Avalanche back on their heels a bit.

There had to be some doubt in the Colorado shooters that they would have the damnest of times beating the Richmond Hill, Ontario native.

And it was playing out that way too.

"Yeah, I mean he gives us lots of confidence," Blues center Tyler Bozak said. "Obviously we're lucky to have a guy like that back there that gives us a chance to win every night. I wish it would have (been) differently in the third, but again, it's Game 1. It's a long series, and we'll be ready for Game 2."

What happened was Colorado's top scorers woke up.

MacKinnon scored twice; Landeskog, who had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick when he fought Brayden Schenn in the first period, tallied a goal and assisted on two more and Rantanen set up two goals.

Game. Set. Match.

It was a battle of attrition pitting top lines against one another, and MacKinnon's overwhelmed O'Reilly's line with Jaden Schwartz and Schenn.

"Yeah, it was very tough tonight," O'Reilly said. "They played very well, came at us with a lot of speed and yeah, it was difficult to generate anything and get momentum. They played well. They were by far the better team tonight. If it wasn't for Binner, it would have been messy early, but we did some things alright. We've just got to improve and get back. We've got to get our rest and get ready for the next game.

"We have to break the puck out better. I think there were times where we're trying to be a little too safe. We have to be aggressive in the d-zone and shut their speed down and then from there, we've got to make strong plays. A couple times we're fighting it a bit and not having the talk we normally have. It's all five guys on the ice being smarter, talking it out. Any time we can get in on them, we have to do a better job at it."

MacKinnon, Rantanen (each with six) and Landeskog (four) combined for 14 shots on goal, 21 shots directed at Binnington, three goals and five assists, and a plus-8 rating while their counterparts (O'Reilly, Schenn and Schwartz) had no points, six shots on goal (12 directed at Philipp Grubauer) and a minus-8.

It was a line Berube put together wanting three of his top two-way forwards to try and neutralize the Avs' top guns.

At least in Game 1, it didn't work.

But it could have worked had the Blues given Binnington a smidge of support.

"Yeah, obviously Binner played unbelievable, you know, tied going into the third ... on the road, had a chance there," Bozak said. "Just too many little mistakes. Obviously they're President Cup champs for a reason and they created a lot of offense and create a lot of opportunities and we just have to be a little tighter and try and limit some of that."
"Going into the third period 1-1 the way he played," Berube said. "We had a real good opportunity, but we let it slip away."

The Blues have to feel encouraged that Binnington played as well as he did.

"Absolutely. There's never a doubt with Binner," O'Reilly said. "He's our best player. He showed it tonight. We know it's there. We were right in that game. A couple mistakes in the back of the net. We've got things to clean up and adjust. I've got the most confidence in him that he's going to ... we saw it tonight. We saw how good he is and the saves he makes. If we make fewer opportunities for them, it's only going to make it easier on us and him."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (middle) makes one of his 46 saves on
Nazem Kadri and the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday.

They do have to be a bit concerned that they were overwhelmed for much of the game by feeding Colorado, though.

"Well, we've got to do a better job," Berube said. "We lost numbers a lot of times tonight in the game, let them come down on the rush with odd-man numbers against us. It's tough. We'll be better. We've got to manage the puck better than we did. Our execution wasn't good with the puck tonight. And then just on the defensive side of things, we let them come out of their zone way too easy and create odd-man rushes against us.

"We didn't execute with the puck very well tonight. From a defending side of things, we've got to be over top of them a lot better than we were."

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