Jordan Binnington

Binnington Blues Stanley Cup
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Binnington, Blues show how far you can come in one year

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.

It sounds like Binnington arrived with the sort of motivation that would inspire you to punch large slabs of meat and run laps on the beach.

(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.

Rather than being a fluke victory, that debut shutout portended big things for Binnington and the Blues. The team caught fire, and while Binnington wasn’t the only key, he saved their season.

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 delivered in the clutch, in particular, cementing that thought with a stellar championship-winning performance in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

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.”

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Winter Classic prep; Binnington the real deal

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• A trip to the 2018 Red River Shootout secured the Cotton Bowl’s place as an NHL Winter Classic location. [NHL.com]

• Could a Winter Classic win be the spark that helps the Predators? [Tennessean]

• “Winter Classic will include jugglers, a sword swallower, a fire breather and a rodeo show, plus special appearances by Troy Aikman and Ricky Williams” Dallas Morning News]

• Why Jordan Binnington is no fluke and is the real deal. [St. Louis Gametime]

• Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff on the latest in the Dustin Byfuglien situation. [Illegal Curve]

• J.G. Pageau and Zack Kassian are two players who are trade deadline candidates but who also could help their teams make a second half playoff push. [TSN]

• The Sharks are facing a brutal January schedule as they look to make a second-half push. [NBC Sports Bay Area]

Thomas Greiss has been struggling in December. [Islanders Insight]

• Sheldon Keefe is instilling a balanced offensive and defensive approach with the Maple Leafs. [Sporting News]

• “Concussions dominated the 2010s, but the NHL is still fighting its demons” [The Score]

• A look at the worst draft busts of the past decade. [The Hockey News]

• Claude Julien believes winning hockey for the Canadiens means getting back to boring hockey. [Montreal Gazette]

• Finally, here’s the time-lapse video of how the NHL made a hockey rink inside Cotton Bowl Stadium:

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL announces rosters for 2020 All-Star Game

NHL All Star Game Rosters
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The NHL has announced its rosters for the 2020 All-Star Game.

The All-Star weekend will take place in St. Louis on Jan. 24-25. The four captains — as voted by fans — were already announced and include David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins), Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) and Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers).

Ovechkin already announced that he will not be participating in the All-Star weekend so that he can rest and be ready for the second half of the regular season as well as the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He will sit out one regular season game either immediately before or after the All-Star break.

The host Blues — who are also the defending Stanley Cup champions — have the most representatives in this year’s game as Ryan O'Reilly, Jordan Binnington, and Alex Pietrangelo have all been named to the Central Division roster.

Here are all four rosters.

*Indicates fan voted captain

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division (All-Star Appearance)

F *David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins (2nd)
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres(3rd)
F Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings (1st)
F Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers (1st)
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (4th)
F Anthony Duclair, Ottawa Senators (1st)
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning (2nd)
D Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens (7th)
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (2nd)
G Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs (1st)

Metropolitan Division

F Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils (2nd)
F Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders (2nd)
F Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers (1st)
F Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers (1st)
F Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins (1st)
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals (2nd)
D Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes (1st)
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets (3rd)
G Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals (5th)
G Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets (1st)

[RELATED: Bergeron, Giroux, Toews highlight NHL All-Star Last Men In vote]

Western Conference

Central Division

F *Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (3rd)
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (9th)
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars (6th)
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild (6th)
F Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets (2nd)
F Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues (3rd)
D Roman Josi, Nashville Predators (3rd)
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues (2nd)
G Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (1st)
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets (2nd)

Pacific Division

F *Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (4th)
F Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks(1st)
F Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames (1st)
F Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (2nd)
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (5th)
F Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks (2nd)
F Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks (2nd)
D Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames (3rd)
G Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights (5th)
G Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes (1st)

MORE NHL ALL-STAR GAME COVERAGE:
The 2020 NHL All-Star Game captains
Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 All-Star Game

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Blues keep getting better, extend winning streak to 8 games

Blues
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Exactly one year ago the St. Louis Blues were sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference standings and seemed to be on their way to a lost season. Thanks to the call-up of goalie Jordan Binnington and the changes made by new coach Craig Berube they went on one of the best second half runs in recent NHL history and rode it to their first ever Stanley Cup.

They will not need that sort of second half to make the playoffs this season. They look like one of the league’s best teams — if not the best team — from the very start.

Thanks to their 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, the Blues are just one point back of the Washington Capitals for the top spot in the NHL, have an eight-point lead for the top spot in the Western Conference, and have now won eight games in a row.

It is already their second winning streak of at least seven games this season.

No Tarasenko? No problem

This is probably the most incredible part of the Blues’ run. Tarasenko, their most dynamic and impactful forward from an offensive standpoint, has appeared in just 10 games and has not played since Oct. 24.

All they have done since then is go 21-6-3 in 30 games. That is a 123-point pace over 82 games. And it’s not like 30 games is a small sample size, either. That is nearly half a season that they have played at this level.

Ryan O'Reilly has continued to be a two-way force in the middle, but one of the biggest difference-makers has been veteran winger David Perron. Since re-joining the Blues last year he has played some of the most productive hockey of his career. As of Sunday he is averaging a point-per-game and has a league-leading six game-winning goals, including four in overtime.

The defense and goaltending remains championship caliber

Even with Tarasenko the Blues never were — and never will be — a team that wins with offense.

They are a defense first team, and when combined with quality goaltending are one of the toughest teams in the league to score against. And that is still driving their success this season.

They allow just 51 total shot attempts per 60 minutes, the third best mark in the league behind only Carolina and Pittsburgh. They also have a top-five penalty killing unit.

When you combine all of that with the fact Binnington and Jake Allen have combined for a .924 save percentage and they are allowing just 2.52 goals per game, fourth best in the NHL. They allowed 2.68 goals per game during the regular season a year ago and 2.69 in the playoffs. Yes, they are doing a better job preventing goals this season than they did during their Stanley Cup-winning season.

They could still probably use another scorer up front, but with the way this team is going they not only look like Stanley Cup contenders once again, they seem to keep getting better.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Undermanned Penguins shut down Blues: 3 takeaways

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins were facing quite the challenge on Wednesday night.

They had just lost two games in a row, were playing without seven regulars in their lineup (Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust, Patric Hornqvist, Nick Bjugstad, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, and Jack Johnson), and had the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues roll into town riding a four-game winning streak where they had been dominating everyone they faced.

All the Penguins did was put together one of their best and most complete efforts of the season in a convincing 3-0 win.

Three big things that stood out from this one.

1. There might be a goalie controversy in Pittsburgh, at least for now. With No. 1 goalie Matt Murray mired in a month-long slump, backup Tristan Jarry has been getting more starts over the past couple of weeks and got the call again on Wednesday in a huge home game.

He took advantage of the opportunity and stopped all 28 shots he faced to record his first shutout of the season (and the third of his career).

With that performance he is now up to a .936 save percentage for the season and has earned the win in five of his past six appearances, allowing only 10 goals in those games.

“He was terrific,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan regarding Jarry’s play on Wednesday. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now and is seeing the puck well.”

He also added that Jarry was the team’s best penalty killer on a night where the unit was a perfect 4-for-4

Murray is still probably going to end up being “the guy” in Pittsburgh this season, but with the team trying to fight through an absurd injury stretch they are going to need goaltending to help carry them until they start getting some players back, especially on the blue line.

Right now Jarry is the goalie giving them the best chance.

2. Next man up. After losing wingers Rust and Hornqvist in two different practices over the past week (while already being without Crosby and Bjugstad) the Penguins were quite literally running out of forwards and had to sign veteran Stefan Noesen to a two-way contract. He had been playing for the team’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on a minor league deal, and was thrown into second-line duty on Wednesday.

He ended up making an immediate impact by scoring a goal late in the second period to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.

The most impressive thing about the Penguins’ performance on Wednesday is that it was not the big-name players making the impact. The trio of Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, and Kris Letang combined for zero points in the win, while only one of them (Malkin) was even on the ice for any of their three goals (he was on for one). It was the depth players that stepped up and made the impact with Noesen, Teddy Blueger, and Alex Galchenyuk (only his second goal of the season in 20 games) scoring the goals.

As great as the Malkin, Guentzel, and Letang trio is they are not going to score every night, meaning someone else is going to have to chip in some offense for the team to have a chance with so many players out.

They received those contributions on Wednesday.

3. Binnington was a bright spot for the Blues. Jordan Binnington may have given up three goals, but he also made a handful of huge saves that kept this game close and at least gave his team a shot. It is also kind of tough to really fault him too much for the ones that went in. Blueger’s goal to open the scoring in the opening minute came off a deflection right in front, and he was kind of left on an island on the final two.

One of the biggest questions for the Blues this season in their repeat attempt was always going to be whether or not his success from a year ago was something he could sustain over a full season. There has been nothing in his play so far this season to suggest he can not.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.