The St. Louis Blues have some questions heading into the 2020-21 season. They are hoping that goaltending will not be one of them and it should not be.
When the St. Louis Blues traded Jake Allen to Montreal, they officially put all their eggs in the Jordan Binnington basket. Yes, they still have high hopes for Ville Husso, but Binnington will shoulder the brunt of the load unless he falters.
Whether he falters is a matter of opinion. His lackluster play and sudden gaping hole in his armor in the 2020 playoffs was a shock to the system.
It is odd how perception can create reality, however. Because we remember the playoff collapse, that alters our perception of what happened in the regular season.
Binnington had large shoes to fill – namely, his own – coming off a fantastic rookie season. In 2018-19, Binnington posted the second-best winning percenteage ever by a rookie goaltender.
He also had a miniscule 1.89 goals against average, five shutouts and a .927 save percentage in the regular season. It was going to be almost impossible to live up to.
That turned out to be true. Because his regular season numbers were not as good as the year prior, suddenly something was wrong.
Nevermind that .912 save percentage and 2.56 goals against isn’t that bad. In 18 extra games played, compared to the prior season, Binnington still managed eight more quality starts than he did in 2018-19.
The impossible expectations and a poor playoff showing still planted the seed of doubt. Circling back to the winning percentage, that should give us reason to expect a bounceback.
On initial view of the names Binnington was surrounded with in rookie win percentage, it did not prove much. Other than Frederik Andersen, names like Bill Duran, Pete Peeters and Richard Sevigny are not household names.
On further inspection though, they all had very good careers.
Like Binnington, Andersen set a high standard going 20-5-0 in his rookie season. Like Binnington, his stats took a slight dip in year two, but some of that was simply playing that many more games during the regular season.
Andersen went from 28 games played to 54. Similarly, Binnington went from 32 to 50 regular season games. The last time he had played 50 games in a regular season, Binnington was in junior hockey with Owen Sound Attack in 2012-13.
Peeters had a solid, 13-year career. He took a little longer to bounce back after his rookie season saw a .808 win percentage. However, in his fourth year, he won the Vezina Trophy and set a career best with 40 wins.
If you haven’t heard of Duran, it’s because he played in the 1940’s. Nevertheless, Duran won two Stanley Cups and six Vezinas. He did happen to be playing for Montreal and the Canadiens won almost everything, but that also shows you his quality.
The truth is the only thing we have to worry about is that playoff performance. That was something out of left field and something you have to hope there is no carryover.
If we base things simply on regular season performance, there is no reason to think Binnington is on a downward trend or cannot revert to the goalie that won the Stanley Cup. There are no guarantees that he’ll be as good as he was in that one season, but those are lofty goals.
Binnington is going to bounce back because there should not be mitigating circumstances this time around. We can argue about commitment or playing shape or whatever, but it is difficult for anyone to take several months off and then be asked to be in championship form the way the pandemic pause did.
Playing goalie, you can’t really train by yourself or take shots on yourself. 2021 is going to be a good year for the Binner. Just wait and see.