Blues’ Penalty Kill Sparking Five-Game Point Streak

The St. Louis Blues have recorded points in five-consecutive games and have placed themselves just three points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. After having one of the worst penalty kills in the entire league to start the season, the Blues have turned a corner when shorthanded and are seeing the benefits on the scoreboard.

The Blues were tied and were one of the last teams not to allow a power-play goal to begin the season. Only the New York Islanders took longer to allow a goal on the power play than St. Louis. The Blues went five games to open the year without allowing a goal while down a player until allowing the Nashville Predators to break the streak.

St. Louis would go on to allow a power-play goal in 10 of its next 13 games, and the Blues quickly found themselves with the worst penalty kill in the NHL. This comes off a season where the Blues finished the season ranked fifth in the NHL with an 84.9 penalty kill percentage.

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With the same defensive core in place for the 2022-23 season after a stellar finish to last year, the Blues’ struggles raised a lot of concern. The Blues have allowed 23 goals while shorthanded, but in their previous 18 penalty kill attempts, the Blues have killed off 16 of them.

Jordan Binnington Stepping up When It Matters Most

Both forwards and defensemen have contributed to the remarkable turnaround on the penalty kill. Still, in order to have a great penalty kill, your goalie has to be your best penalty killer, and despite a rocky stretch of games, Jordan Binnington has been one of the best penalty killers on the team.

Jordan Binnington St. Louis Blues
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Blues’ goalie has been spectacular between the St. Louis pipes during the team’s point streak. He is 3-1-1 in his last five starts, and his stellar play against the Colorado Avalanche on December 11 earned him a start the next day against the Predators.

After the Blues’ 5-2 loss to Winnipeg on December 8, the Blues have allowed just two goals while shorthanded, and they both came in the same game against the Edmonton Oilers. Binnington has made stops against some of the game’s best power-play units that feature players like Connor McDavid, Cale Makar, and Bo Horvat.

He has been able to make the spectacular save when the team needs him to, and he has been solid for the Blues in the month of December. He has raised his season numbers to a 12-11-1 record with a 3.11 goals-against average and a .897 save percentage.

Binnington, however, has not been the only reason why the Blues have been successful on the kill. Defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Colton Parayko have been mainstays for the Blues on defense, while Ivan Barbashev and Brandon Saad have been a lockdown forward pairing while shorthanded.

Bortuzzo is a gritty, physical, tough presence on the ice for the Blues this season and has been for his entire 12-year career in the NHL. Both Bortuzzo (six-foot-four) and Paryako (six-foot-six) use their long reach to disrupt the opposing offense with great skill.

Meanwhile, defenders like Nick Leddy and Justin Faulk have also proved to be excellent penalty killers, giving the Blues four legitimate defensemen to kill off penalties. Despite being on the second penalty kill unit, Faulk and Leddy are able to move the puck out the defensive end with their elite passing and skating abilities.

Barbashev and Saad have been supplying the Blues with some much-needed defensive stability (from ‘Brandon Saad, Ivan Barbashev help perk up Blues’ penalty killing,’ St. Louis Post Dispatch, 12/19/22) up top. Their stick positioning against the other team’s defensemen has caused a lot of tipped passes, and their ability to go in behind the net and poke pucks free has led to easy clearing opportunities.

Overall, the Blues’ penalty kill numbers are still not where you want them to be. They are 29th overall with a 70.1% kill rate, but if the Blues continue their dominance while shorthanded, you could see the team jump toward the middle of the pack when it comes to penalty kill percentage.

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