By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- When Nazem Kadri fell into Jordan Binnington in Game 3 of the Western Conference second round series between the Blues and Avalanche, it not only crashed Binnington's second-half resurrection but also all but squashed the chances of beating Colorado.
|(St. Louis Blues/Scott Rovak)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (50) had regained the swagger that had
made him successful in the past before injuring his left knee vs. Colorado.
The Blues were off to a roaring start and were up to the task of defeating the Avalanche until their No. 1 netminder went down with a left knee injury that sidelined him for not only the remainder of that series but likely for the playoffs, if not most of it.
Binnington had relinquished his starting role to Ville Husso when he struggled throughout large swaths of the season, going 18-14-4 with a 3.13 goals-against average and .901 save percentage, but when Binnington was handed the starter's keys again for Game 3 of the first round against the Minnesota Wild, Binnington would go 4-1 with a 1.72 GAA and .949 save percentage.
That was the Binnington that was living up to the six-year, $36 million contract he signed after backstopping the Blues to the 2019 Stanley Cup.
Binnington had a brace on his left knee from the injury with Kadri and teammate Calle Rosen and fielded questions from the media on Tuesday after the Blues were eliminated by the Avalanche in six games.
Here are his thoughts:
Thoughts on the season:
I think a lot of guys took steps forward, I think our young guys especially. I think we came together more and more as a team throughout the season. We finished the season strong and came together well and we put up a good fight in the playoffs. We’re not satisfied for sure, but I think it’s definitely, for me, it’s a learning experience, just a year of experience for all of us to carry with us and kind of bottle up that feeling of not winning. Just losing, you bottle it up and you carry that motivation with you in your summer programs and just think about the next season and when we’re getting ready to come back and get back to work.
On how the knee is and if you could have played had you advanced past Colorado:
It's doing alright. It’s kind of tough to say. It's just going to take some time. I guess it's something that since we’re not playing, it will have time to get back to fully healed. I can't confirm, or not, if that would be the case.
Thoughts on the collision with Kadri and if it could have been avoided:
It’s a physical sport and it's playoff time and he’s going to go to the net hard. It's how it goes. I don’t think he intentionally was trying to do what he did to me, or for me to get injured, I should say. But I think he knows how to play hard and how to go to the net and that’s what happens in this sport. For me, it is what is and I just have to kind of deal with it.
On if you were playing best hockey of career at the time, give you confidence moving forward:
I was feeling good for sure. I think after the season like this one, it was definitely interesting and a year of experience for me for sure. It kind goes into, when things aren’t going your way in whatever you’re doing, it’s how you handle it. I think we handled it pretty well here. I really tried to put the work in and it kind of came to fruition towards the end. It’s unfortunate how it ended. I’ve got to just keep working, carrying that with me. Definitely it was fun being back out there and being in those moments of just being at home, in front of the atmosphere and the crowd and the playoffs and you remember why you put that work in and why, on those tough days, you’re going to push through it. I definitely had a couple of those moments.
On if he won't need surgery:
On getting back in there and playing like you did heading into off-season:
It definitely was nice to kind of prove to myself and just to get back in there and feel good and get some victories. Towards the end of the year, we were playing very well and had a great point streak going. I think we were just playing together as a team. It was just fun being a part of it again.
One or two things you'd like to see the group do better moving forward:
I think in an 82-game season, it's starting right away and continuing to build from the first game of the year, playing together and understanding that, everyone is going to have a chance, everyone at a certain point is going to be the guy for that certain game and understanding that it’s going to be different all the time. Just continuing to work and want to contribute in any way you can as a team to keep building towards this time of year and playoffs. It really comes together. I think we started to do that towards the end of the year. It was promising. The longer we can do that and the earlier we can start doing that, the better.
On the water bottle incident with Kadri:
So I went to get my knee checked out in that game, I was coming back to the rink, the game just ended, walking down the hallway, couldn’t find a recycling bin on my way down the hallway and right before I walked into the locker room, I see him kind of doing the interview there, smiling, laughing and I’m there in a knee brace limping down the hallway. I felt like it was a God-given opportunity. I don’t know, I could stay just silent and go in the room or I could say something and just have him look me in the eye and understand what’s going on, something to think about. I just ... yeah, threw the water bottle, an empty water bottle, it landed like two feet from him. It is was it is there. I mean, but it is what it is, it’s hockey, it’s a competitive game.
On coming to grips with Husso starting the playoffs and now feel good about your standing with the team:
Whatever happens, I think it always goes back to this, it’s how you handle it. Just keep trying to put yourself in the best position possible to be successful and contribute to the team. Ville had an outstanding season and he’s a great goaltender. It was working for the team, so absolutely I’ve got to just do what I can to be ready to get back in there if the team needs me, whenever that is. I feel I’m in a great spot and I think it was a great learning experience and a season for me and a good test of character. Another year of just getting closer with the teammates. We have a great core here so I think the guys were really supportive of me trying to find my way. As a team, I got just lot of love in the locker room. It definitely will carry with us as we move forward.
On getting through the adversity you faced when things weren't going well, will this adversity make you stronger as a person and player:
I believe so. I think that’s kind of makes life fun, is having to overcome challenges. At the end of the day, that’s what you are going to be most proud of is moments like that. I’m proud with how I kind of handled it and how the team handled with me. That’s life, you know.
On if you knew right away you were injured on that play in Game 3:
It was interesting. I’ve never left a game as a goaltender in my whole life, so it was something I was kind of proud of and tried to carry with me. I just felt like something was off. Ray [Barile] was so comforting out there, he was kind of just saying, 'You’ve got to test it out before I leave you here.' I felt alright on my feet. When I went down to my knees, I realized I couldn’t go.
On David Perron, what he's meant to the organization and thoughts on him returning:
He’s just such a true warrior. Come playoff time, he’s one of those guys you really love going out there and playing with and for. Off the ice too, I have so much love for the guy. It will play out how it plays out. For the time being of being in the present, I think we’ve all had a great time playing together and we’ve got a lot of love for him.