As the St. Louis Blues have hit a bit of a snag here in early February, many questions have come up surrounding Jordan Binnington and his struggles in the last month or so. If you look at how he’s been playing, I think the questions are valid.
It seems like the right time to look at what Binnington has put together this season and the way he’s been very up and down.
His Start to the Season
Binnington got off to a hot start in his sophomore campaign, and it looked like he could be a top candidate for the Vezina Trophy. He had a save percentage (SV%) above .900 in eight of his first 10 games, tallying five wins over that period.
It only got better from there, as he went on a tear, he put up a SV% above .900 in nine of his next 10 after that. During this 10-game stretch, he had a record of 7-2-1. He recorded a 40-save shutout against the Calgary Flames on Nov. 21.
It looked like Binnington could end up close to his 2018-19 numbers, a regular season where he was the runner-up for the Calder Trophy.
It appeared as if Blues’ fans could really trust him and that there was nothing to worry about, as this team looked on track to seriously compete for the Presidents’ Trophy. And why wouldn’t you trust a guy that led you to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history?
Ever since the start of 2020, Binnington has been a very up and down goaltender, struggling to find his game. He ended the 2019 calendar year riding a six-game win streak, playing very well.
He started the New Year allowing seven goals on 41 shots against the Colorado Avalanche, one of the worst starts of his career. He did pick up three-straight wins over the Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, and San Jose Sharks after that though.
Then he hit a bad stretch of three games in a row allowing four goals in each. He did go 1-1-1 in that stretch, as the Blues helped him pick up a win over the Calgary Flames when he allowed four goals.
He’s now followed that stretch up with four straight games of allowing three goals, going 1-2-1 during it. He’s allowed 24 goals in his last seven games, that is less than ideal for a team that isn’t an every night offensive juggernaut.
In the most recent game against the Stars, it seemed like Binnington played pretty well. Blues’ head coach Craig Berube appeared to feel that way as well.
Binnington played all three games this week, so it feels like as they take another trip out west, we see a little more Jake Allen. The Blues have two games on the west coast, one against the Anaheim Ducks and the other versus the Vegas Golden Knights. Allen has been good on the road, so it makes sense to give Binnington a rest.
Looking Ahead to the rest of the Season
Many have been saying that the NHL is catching up to Binnington, and it does look that. Now the hope becomes he can figure his game back out and finish strong going into the playoffs. It’s easier said than done.
I expect Berube to try and balance the starts a bit more for Binnington and Allen, but he should also make sure he can keep Binnington ready for the playoffs.
Binnington has been very good at home this season, while we’ve seen Allen be great on the road. So Berube can use that logic to help balance the two goaltenders playing time.
To back those points up, Binnington is 16-4-5 with a SV% of .919 and a goals against average (GAA) of 2.29 at the Enterprise Center. He has had his road struggles however, as he is 8-6-1 with a .896 SV% and 3.26 GAA away from home.
If you want to dive deeper into the splits, Binnington has a .916 SV% in 24 games against Western Conference teams, with just a .899 in 16 games against Eastern Conference teams. The difference isn’t that large, but the sample size is bigger against the more familiar teams.
In the bigger picture for the Blues, they need Binnington to advance in the playoffs. Simply put, if he isn’t locked in, this team likely doesn’t have the offensive firepower to throttle any teams come playoff time. An example of this has been the games we’ve seen Binnington allow three or more goals and more times than not, they don’t win the game.
Overall, I don’t think Blues’ fans should panic just yet with Binnington, I see this as a sophomore, midseason slump. I think with the track record that he’s had in the NHL thus far, he can pull out of this and get the job done for the Blues.
For the record, I would still take Binnington over Justin Bieber in their shootout. So we don’t have to worry about that.