Thursday, May 13, 2021

Husso's recent performance boosts Blues' goaltending confidence

Goalie's 31-save shutout sparks confidence that the goaltending 
heading into playoffs is rounding into form along with Jordan Binnington

ST. LOUIS -- If it was Ville Husso's last hurrah for the 2020-21 season, he went out in style.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues goalie Ville Husso (35) makes a save against the Minnesota Wild
in the season. He stopped all 31 shots against the Wild Wednesday.

But this is the NHL where anything can happen, from injuries to poor play, especially when it comes to netminders, and what if the Blues, who earned their first shutout of the season with Husso backstopping all 31 shots faced in a 4-0 win against the Minnesota Wild -- the Blues' first goose egg of the season -- in what amounted to be a meaningless game for both teams at Enterprise Center, is called upon for any particular reason when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin in a few days?

The sort of performance that Husso, making his 15th start, put forth can only give the coaching staff confidence that going into the playoffs, they have a 1-2 punch with Jordan Binnington that they have solid goaltending.

Even though at times throughout the season that may not have always been the case.

"Yeah, our goal is to win and we have a good group of guys here," Husso said, more or less dodging the question of having a 1-2 punch for the playoffs. "One more game in the regular season and then it's the playoffs. 

"Anything can happen. It's good that we are taking these wins right now too."
Husso, who "improved" his stats to a 3.21 goals-against average and .893 save percentage, knows it's Binnington or bust for the Blues in the playoffs, but it's nice to know there's someone capable to come in when/if needed.

"He had a real good game," Blues coach Craig Berube said. 'Early on, made some key saves. They came out hard, and we were caught a little bit on our heels and he made some big saves and there was some other times in the game where he made some big saves, too. He played a heck of a game."

It was Berube who spoke of Husso during a Zoom call following the morning skate and felt the Helsinki, Finland native, whose parents were watching Wednesday's game back home in a game that began at 3 a.m. over there, has had a solid season despite the less-than-stellar numbers.

"When I look at the whole season and it's been a weird season for him, I don't think it's fair to be honest with you, the season, his rookie year in the NHL, totally different league than the minors and shooters and other things, the speed of the game," Berube said. "He's had a lot of work to do to adjust to that and I think he's gotten better at that as the year's gone along. (Assistant coach) Davey Alexander's done a great job working with him. The one positive out of it all is he's found a way to win games. 

"His numbers maybe aren't what we want them to be or what he wants them to be, but he's found a way to win hockey games. That goes a long way in my opinion, but it's been a big adjustment for him this year and coming up here and playing, the shortened season and the games, how they're packed in and things like that. Hasn't been easy. There's a lot of nights where he's in the net and our team's probably tired, not 100 percent, a lot of injuries, things like that. All that weighs into all that. I think Ville Husso's had a good rookie season for me, from my standpoint, and he's done a good job of working on his game and getting better."

Husso, who will finish the season 9-6-1, has found himself in better situations in games down the stretch. Despite Wednesday being only the second game this season in which he's allowed one or fewer goals in an appearance or start, the Husso feels his play has gotten better and it has. He's 3-0-0 against the Wild this season, but he's stopped 110 of the past 119 shots (.933 save percentage) his past four starts (3-1-0) with a respectable 2.49 goals-against average.

"It's been alright I would say," Husso said. "There's good things and then there's a couple bad games, easy goals, but I would say the second part of the season has been better. I feel more comfortable. That's it."

Husso was called into action early against the Wild (35-15-5), which came into the game with a chance, albeit slim, of gaining home ice advantage in the first round if they could win out and Colorado lose out to Los Angeles. 

What it did was force Husso, who had a penchant early in the season to allow goals early in games, particularly on the first shot faced, get himself going early and often. His best sequence came when he went from left to right to thwart a Ryan Hartman one-timer from the left circle with 6:29 remaining in the first to robbing Matt Dumba's subsequent backhand rebound from the slot.

"He made a ton of great saves," said defenseman Torey Krug, who had a goal and an assist. "That was the best I’ve seen him track the puck and he worked to make all those saves. So if it wasn’t for him, the score definitely looks a little different tonight.

"... Husso did a great job of keeping us in the game." 

He sure did, as the Wild pumped 27 shots on goal through 40 minutes before each team pulled off the brake in the third.

"All night long he was excellent," said Blues forward David Perron, who had a goal and two assists giving him 55 points (17 goals, 38 assists) in 55 games. "I kind of heard some of (Husso's) answers. Obviously, he’s been really working at it in practice, and we’ve seen that. We’ve seen that. We’ve seen everything has gotten better so we’re happy for him, and we really wanted that shutout for him."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ville Husso (middle) is 3-0-0 against the Minnesota Wild this season
after blanking them, 4-0, on Wednesday at Enterprise Center.

The Blues did it for him, helping the cause by going 3-for-3 on the penalty kill, and Husso doing the rest, from sprawling saves to challenging shooters to minimizing the rebound pucks.
"Of course it's nice and a win. First one, first shutout, so it was nice," Husso said. "I need to put myself in a good spot every night. This game was good for my confidence and I just need to keep building.

"When I came to the rink, I was thinking like, 'Have fun tonight.' There was no pressure for our team to play. It worked out pretty well and got a 4-0 win. It was nice.

"I was dialed in right away and saw all the pucks. Guys did a good job too in front of the net boxing out."

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