This is a divisive topic to discuss in the world of St. Louis Blues hockey, but it has to be discussed. The Blues have had a good season, but it hasn’t been without goaltending issues behind a struggling defensive unit. While Jordan Binnington has had a solid season, other goaltenders that have stepped in for the Blues have had significantly better numbers, namely Ville Husso.
While I don’t believe the Blues will make this change, it’s worth looking at. I am not giving up on Binnington or saying he isn’t a solid goaltender, but there is a case to be made against him, fair or unfair.
Keep in mind that Husso has played 12 fewer games than Binnington, but it’s close enough to compare the significant difference in their stats. Husso missed a month of action with an injury and COVID issues, that’s when Charlie Lindgren went on an elite run of goaltending. Other goaltenders have found a gear that Binnington hasn’t this season.
|Games Played + Record||22 (11-8-3)||10 (6-2-1)|
|Save Percentage (SV%)||.906||.933|
|Goals Against Average (GAA)||3.05||2.22|
|Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA)||-2.3||7.5|
|Quality Starts % (QS%)||.364||.700|
Let’s start with the SV% stat, which is a big difference, and a lot of that has to do with the recent play. Binnington has a SV% under .900 in three of his last five games, giving up 15 goals in those games. For Husso, he’s given up 11 goals in his last five games, posting a SV% over .940 in three of those games.
The defense has clearly been an issue for the Blues, it’s evident when both of these goaltenders are in net. Husso has faced 32.7 shots per game this season, while Binnington has faced 32.5. The defense has hung these two out to dry many times, there is no denying that.
As for the GSAA stats, that is based upon the goals prevented by a goalie based on his SV% and shots faced versus the league average of the same two stats. That is where the biggest difference is, Husso has been a monster in this category, and the eye test would prove that to be true.
Husso ranks 11th among all NHL goaltenders in GSAA, even with a smaller sample size, it’s been impressive. A lot of players with just 10 games played would have a lower GSAA number than Husso, it’s rare to see a goaltender be over 5.00 in GSAA in 10 games. Binnington has struggled with GSAA, ranking 44th in the league, behind many backup goaltenders.
Finally, the QS% is another gap between the two netminders, Husso being well over .500 and the opposite for Binnington. The league average for QS% is .530, and Binnington is well under that number. Husso ranks fourth in the league in QS% among qualified goaltenders, behind Igor Shesterkin, Jack Campbell, and Kaapo Kahkonen.
The statistical difference between these two is so large that the smaller sample size for Husso doesn’t factor in as much. But that is not the end-all, be-all for these two, there’s a reason Binnington is the starter and got paid last season.
The Defensive Issues
It’s difficult to fully judge a goaltender when the defense in front of them has been inconsistent, which is the case for the Blues. There has not been a set lineup of six players on the back-end for a lot of this season, which can hurt the continuity of a team.
The Blues’ expected goals against (xGA), which is based upon where shots are coming from, is 87.9. The league average for xGA is 79.2, which is much lower than where the Blues are at, which isn’t ideal. Thanks to some elite goaltending from Husso, Lindgren, and Binnington at times, the Blues are ninth in the NHL in goals-against with 106.
With the Blues’ depth, I don’t think there is a need to make a major deadline move with their defensive unit. Given their salary cap issues, a move would not make sense.
Benching Marco Scandella could help the defensive unit get back to prominence, as clearly there are six defensemen that have been better. Niko Mikkola and Robert Bortuzzo have been solid enough to keep them in the lineup with Torey Krug, Justin Faulk, Colton Parayko, and Scott Perunovich.
What the Blues Should Do
I could see the Blues eventually moving towards a 50/50 split when it comes to starts for Husso and Binnington, similar to the setup that the Vegas Golden Knights had with Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner last season. The cap hits would suggest this is a clear starter and backup situation, but the numbers clearly don’t align with that.
Husso has earned more time than he’s gotten this season, while Binnington has struggled in a lot of starts. There is an argument that Lindgren was just a goaltender on a hot streak, but it is somewhat telling that every goaltender for the Blues this season has had good numbers, except for Binnington.
Either way, I think we’ll see more of Husso in the coming weeks and that is the right thing to do. Hopefully, it can motivate Binnington to reach the level he had a few seasons ago, and it should keep him rested as the stretch run begins soon. It seems that a lot of Blues fans are slightly gravitating towards more time for Husso, and I agree with them. It’s no disrespect towards Binnington, he’s meant a lot to this franchise, but sometimes you have to ride the hot hand.
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Ethan Carter has been writing at The Hockey Writers for over three years now. He also co-hosts The Blue Note Podcast for the Bleav Network, which covers the Blues and the NHL multiple times per week.