The Blues are no strangers to playoff elimination. On their road to the 2019 Stanley Cup, they faced the prospect of going home three times, beating the Stars in Games 6 and 7 in the Second Round and finishing off the season with a Game 7, Cup clinching victory over the Bruins.
Friday night in Game 6 against the Canucks (9:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream) will be the first time the Blues attempt to stave off elimination. After dropping the first two games, head coach Craig Berube sat Jordan Binnington and went to Jake Allen in goal. That resulted in two wins and and a new series. But Game 5 was a different story as Vancouver scored three times in a span of seven minutes late in the second period to flip the game in their favor for good.
Berube now faces his biggest decision of the season: Does he stick with Allen or go back to Binnington for the first of two potential elimination games?
“I’m going to think about it still, so I have not made that decision yet,” he said Thursday.
The Blues will not videoconference with the media on Friday morning, so we likely won’t know his decision until warmups before Game 6.
Binnington has been the team’s No. 1 since last season, but his postseason struggles opened the door for Allen. The Blues will say they have confidence in both goalies, no matter who is in net. But listen to Berube and you get the sense he’s leaning towards Binnington.
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“I think you gotta look at what your goalie did in the past at certain times,” he said. “And what he’s done this year at certain times. … I think that Jake Allen came in and did a real good job for us. To me, Binner at the start of the playoffs here in the round-robin was excellent. They’re kind of like our team right now. But like I said, I’m not gonna make a decision on it [right now]. I’m gonna think about it a little bit [Thursday].”
Binnington has made four appearances this postseason and stopped 106 of 123 shots faced. Allen has played three games and stopped 124 of 132 shots faced. At 5-on-5 Allen has the advantage with a .930 save percentage vs. Binnington’s .906. But with their season on the line, who has the coach’s confidence?
“Every player wants to play all the time,” Berube said. “They’re competitive people and they want to be in the net or playing out [as a skater] or playing defense — whatever. They want to play. [Binnington] understands the situation. He’s a team guy, just like Jake Allen is.
“So Binner’s been good. He’s worked hard in practice and he’s stayed ready. That’s what we talked to him about: You gotta stay ready. Things change and he’s stayed ready and he worked hard in practice. And cheered his teammates on.”
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.