The St. Louis Blues have depth and talent, but very few in the national media consider them serious contenders for the 2021-22 Stanley Cup. However, just as it did in 2019, goaltending, aka Jordan Binnington, can get them there.
The biggest problem Binnington has had after winning the holy grail of hockey was that he played too well at the time. The run he went on during the 2019 regular season and then the playoffs was something very few, if any, could replicate with any consistency.
That’s why some fans, including myself, worried about giving him a long-term deal when his initial contract was up. He was so good out of the gate that there was nowhere to go but down.
Thankfully, Binnington evened out and has proven his worth as a starting goaltender even if the stats are not as dazzling. Still, the Blues need that 2019 version to ascend back to the promised land.
Fortunately, Binnington is a man that plays his best when he has something to prove. 2022 will give him just such an opportunity.
2019 proved that Binnington is at his best when he wants to stick it to someone. He was quite mad at being asked to drop to the ECHL. He also wanted to show that he was better than proclaimed starter Jake Allen.
Binnington never let go of the starter’s job once he got it. His main blip was a poor 2020 playoffs when Allen was the better man, but the entire team played awfully in the bubble.
In 2021, Binnington showed he was still a starter, but there was something missing. There was no worry about Ville Husso supplanting him and he had a contract already. So, it was decent but not spectacular from number 50.
Now, Binnington has something to prove again. Whether he admits it or not, he wants to be the starter for the 2022 Canadian Olympic team.
Given that Doug Armstrong is also the general manager of Team Canada, it was presumed Binnington would make the team. The depth at goaltender is actually somewhat thin for our northern neighbors, so Binnington was always likely to be one of the three.
With Carey Price currently injured, Binnington has a legitimate shot to prove he can be the man for his country. Putting that chip back on his shoulder, trying to prove to the big wigs in Hockey Canada that he’s the man, will only help the Blues.
We have already seen this to be the case in the early part of 2021-22. Forget the stats, because the Blues have repeatedly taken their foot of the gas and allowed their opponents too much room to work with at times.
Binnington is passing the eye test. The athletic, yet calm demeanored goaltender has returned.
The quality of the saves he made in the season opener against Colorado were reminiscent of the stops he made in the Cup Final against Boston. The confidence he shows by coming to the top of the crease, seemingly knowing whether there will be a pass or a shot, reminds one of when Binnington said his famous “Do I look nervous?”.
Naysayers will say it’s too early in the season and that’s not totally incorrect. The team’s spotty defense could eventually catch up to him.
However, I believe the prospect of playing for Team Canada is going to give Binnington just the right amount of incentive. He is the kind of player that does best when he’s got something extra to improve and that’s just what the Blues are likely to get.
Once the Olympics are done, he can focus on keeping in that top groove and carry it into the playoffs. This is just the sort of scenario that can carry the Blues back to another championship.