The year 2020 remains brand-spanking new, even if world events made the first week feel much longer. With the year’s new-car smell still wafting in the air, it’s an opportunity to reflect on how much can change in 12 months. St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington can attest to how someone’s life can pull a 180 in 365 days (or, in 2020, 366).
While Binnington made his first NHL start on Jan. 7, 2019, Binnington told The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford (sub required) that it also felt, to him, like one of his last opportunities to prove himself.
Binnington: “A year ago from today I was listening to Rocky Balboa on the way to the rink.” #stlblues
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) January 7, 2020
(Aside: Binnington probably means “Eye of the Tiger,” yet that unintentionally open-ended comment actually points to the glut of outstanding inspirational, montage-worthy tunes in “Rocky” movies. There’s the just-as-rad theme, cheesier option “Hearts on Fire,” and even the remote possibility that Binnington was merely listening to Rocky mutter various lines. Lots of possibilities, honestly.)
Binnington starts hot, rarely slows down for Blues
Binnington began his underdog story with quite the haymaker. He pitched a 25-save shutout in that first NHL start after only seeing paltry relief appearances before.
Binnington managed an astounding 24 wins in just 30 games played, generating a fantastic .927 save percentage during a rookie season that helped him finish second in the Calder voting. Binnington could’ve hung his hat on that great regular season, alone.
Yet, well … you probably know what happened.
While Binnington struggled at times during the postseason (.914 save percentage during that 26-game run), he frequently earned praise for being “unflappable.” You’d expect “steady as a rock” from a veteran, not a goalie who wondered where his career was heading as 2019 began.
Binnington, Blues putting out a strong sequel so far
Marking Jan. 2, 2019 as a line in the sand makes a lot of sense for Blues historians — and maybe other teams firing their coaches mid-season. After all, that’s when the Blues ranked last in the NHL, only to turn around their 2018-19 season and win the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup.
That Binnington start on Jan. 7, 2019 works well, too, though.
Either way, it’s truly remarkable to see how much Binnington’s life changed, and how he skyrocketed up the ranks of top goalies. Consider a few facts:
- Binnington’s 43 wins (43-12-5 record) leads all goalies since he made that first start. His .923 save percentage would hover around the top 10 during that time, too, if you exclude goalies who barely played.
- Fascinatingly, a resurgent Jake Allen now ties Binnington’s .923 during that time (Allen in 28 games, Binnington in 60). The two can conceivably push each other to help boost the Blues overall.
- The Blues topped all NHL teams for the calendar year of 2019 with 56 wins and 123 standings points. (Again, Binnington won 43 of those 56.)
- Binnington went from a goalie bouncing around various levels of hockey to a player who received a two-year, $8.8 million contract. And you could make a sound argument the Blues got a bit of a bargain.
- Yes, Binnington tapered off a bit compared to last season’s lofty hot streak. He still seems like a viable starter, however, with a solid .914 save percentage, and 7.26 Goals Saved Against Average that is more than respectable.
- Binnington played a large role in the resurgence of “Gloria.”
Binnington really stacked his resume so far, huh? Now the key is to avoid making sequels on the level of “Rocky V.”