Sunday, May 8, 2022

Blues go back to a familiar face to help them even best-of-7 series with Wild

St. Louis turns to its Stanley Cup-winning goalie Binnington, playing with 
depleted defensive unit, turns in 28-save performance in 5-2 victory in Game 4

ST. LOUIS -- Backed into a bit of a corner trailing 2-1 in their best-of-7 first round series with the Minnesota Wild, the Blues turned to someone who's been there between the pipes and done that.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jordan Binnington (50) saw his first postseason action this year and made
28 saves in helping the Blues to a 5-2 win over the Wild in Game 4.

It hasn't been easy for 2019 Stanley Cup champ Jordan Binnington, who stormed the league as a rookie then but who hasn't tasted victory since raising the Cup in Game 7 in Boston on June 12, 2019.

But down 2-1 against the Wild, the Blues needed a change of pace. Their last two games haven't gone according to script. Nothing against Ville Husso, but it was a pressure situation, and Binnington has been in these pressure type of games.

He was a backbone then, and lent a helping hand in being a backbone on Sunday in Game 4, making 28 saves, including some key ones in the third period of a 5-2 Blues victory at Enterprise Center to tie the series 2-2.

Going down 3-1 in the series was not an ideal situation for the Blues against a Wild squad that gained some confidence the past two games, one that has played equally as well as the Blues did down the stretch in the regular season.

And no offense to Ville Husso, who has had him a solid regular-season and who out-dueled Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 1 with a 37-save shutout, but the Blues needed something different.

On home ice, it was their moment to make this a best-of-3 series.

They got it.

Binnington had been 0-9 with a 4.19 goals-against average and .875 save percentage in the playoffs since. 

Forget the monkey. Take that gorilla and hurl it as far off your back as you can.

"It felt good, I felt prepared," Binnington said. "We had a good start to the game, a really good first period. Definitely a big win, a hard-fought win. We had guys step in the lineup, but I felt pretty good.

"Definitely I had to be patient. Nothing this morning, wait for the game, just hanging out at home and just prepping."

There was something about Saturday that gave a subtle hint that Binnington would get the nod. He was first on the practice ice at Centene Community Ice Center, and rather early too. He was working with goalie coach Dave Alexander, but getting in extensive work.

The Blues not only were going to mix and match their lineup, which included a patchwork defensive unit that included Steven Santini, Calle Rosen and Scott Perunovich, but they were going to go to the grizzled, experienced 28-year-old.

"We wanted to make a switch," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "We lost two in a row and just change the momentum and luck a little bit. I thought he was really good tonight. He played the puck extremely well, which is a big thing. He looked real calm and cool in the net."

The stoic-mannered Binnington, who doesn't tip his emotions whether good or bad, got the news he was going in and began his preparation.

Remember, this is a guy that was basically banished to another organization's American Hockey League team (Providence, the Boston Bruins' affiliate) in 2017-18 and had to work his way back up the ranks to become relevant in the Blues organization again. If anyone knows hardships, Binnington does.

"I think it was yesterday, I'm not really sure," Binnington said of when he was told. "I think it was yesterday. That was it. Just said, 'You're in.'

"However it played out, you've got to be ready for whatever's to come and I was just putting in that work and building that resiliency for if or when that time came."

That time came, and there were no raw emotions when Berube told Binnington.

"He's always the same," Berube said. "He doesn't give me much of a reaction. He just said, 'OK.' That's him though. He's a quiet guy. He doesn't show a lot of emotion in that area and he just goes and plays."

It started with the pregame introductions when Binnington's name was announced that the 18,096 roared in approval. With each save he made, a number of them key saves, there were loud cheers, and when he was speaking on Bally Sports Midwest postgame, Binnington received the love from the crowd.

It felt like old times again.

"On our side, definitely special," Binnington said. 'That's the show, as I say. It was a lot of fun being out there and competing. The crowd after when we scored, big saves, big kills, they know the game here. It's always fun to play in front of this crowd."

The Blues didn't give Binnington a whole lot of work in the first period, but when he was beat on the short side by Kirill Kaprizov on Minnesota's fourth shot of the game to tie the game 1-1 late in the first period, there were some groans among the crowd. 

This time it didn't faze Binnington.
(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (right) gets congratulated by captain Ryan
O'Reilly after backstopping them to a 5-2 win over Minnesota in Game 4.

He made a real big stop on Kaprizov's one-timer in the second period of a 3-1 game with the Wild on the power play, sliding from right to left to seal off the near side net, and Binnington kicked out Ryan Hartman's attempt in the third off a 2-on-1 after Perunovich got caught on a pinch in the offensive zone with the Blues clinging to a 3-2 lead.

That's experience and being the backbone of a young, experienced blue line.

"These are why we play, these are fun moments," Binnington said. "There's adversity and just backing it up and picking yourself up and trying to get back at it again. It was an opportunity for me tonight. We played a heck of a game, we kept it tight. Now we just shift our focus to next game and prepare."

Does this sound familiar? It should. Sounds a lot like a goalie who prepared in 2019. 

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