The St. Louis Blues won a thriller against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, capturing a 1-0 victory in the final minute of overtime. In so doing, they defeated the best team in the NHL and vaulted back into a playoff spot for the first time all season.
There’s a lot that can be taken away from the Blues’ victory, but there are three conclusions that rise above the rest.
1) Binnington is the Real Deal
The Blues’ goaltender, Jordan Binnington, proved conclusively that he is a legitimate NHL starter in Thursday’s tilt. He stopped all 32 of the Lightning’s shots, and managed to outlast Andrei Vasilevskiy, whom we recently ranked as the second-best goaltender in the entire league.
No one is implying that Binnington has surpassed Vasilevskiy, of course. But his numbers speak powerfully on his behalf. Binnington has now started 10 games and is 8-1-1 in those starts. He has a save percentage of .931 and a goals against average of just 1.67. That number puts him first in the league (though with fewer starts than most goalies).
There is no question that the Jake Allen era is over in St. Louis. Binnington has conclusively stolen his job for the rest of the season, and it’s hard to imagine that the team will turn back to the older, more expensive, and more embattled goalie when the season ends. It’s Binnington’s world now, and we’re all just living in it.
2) The Blues Power Play Needs Work
The one black mark against the Blues from this game is their woeful power play. On three opportunities, St. Louis managed only four shots, all of which were stopped. Worse yet, they allowed two shorthanded opportunities as well. Particularly troublesome was the second power play, which felt more like a penalty kill, as the Lightning controlled the flow of play and got more of the chances.
It’s a worrying trend for the Blues, whose power play ranks 17th in the league with a 19% conversion rate. Their penalty kill is even worse, ranking 21st in the league with a 78.9% success rate. Both are indictments on interim head coach Craig Berube, who otherwise is building a very strong case for himself to stay on as the permanent head coach after the season.
Colton Parayko, who is, in theory, the most potent power play threat amongst Blues defenseman, played just one second on the power play, while Alex Pietrangelo earned 2:53 there. Parayko has three power play goals on the season while Pietrangelo has none, though the latter has five assists to the former’s one.
At one point, the team was running a five-man power play unit that featured Patrick Maroon, Tyler Bozak, and Alex Steen, three of the team’s most underperforming players on the season. Without nitpicking each questionable personnel decision, it’s safe to say that this combination was never a potent threat.
The team must improve on the power play, particularly if they intend to have any success in the playoffs. It’s not enough to sour this win much, but it is a troubling trend the Blues need to fix.
3) The Dad’s Are Unstoppable
Far and away the best feel-good story of the evening was the fact that the Blues’ dads were on the trip to Florida for the week. The team has continued this tradition each of the past four seasons, taking the players’ fathers on a two-game road trip to show their appreciation for the men that helped them reach this level (as many teams have done around the league).
For the Blues, this trip has had tremendous success, not just as a tool for improving morale, but as a strategy for victory. Over four seasons, the team is 7-1 with the dads on the trip, and Thursday’s game was no exception.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) February 8, 2019
The dads trip is a great opportunity for the players to bond. It even provides a chance for other players to heal. Zach Sanford lost his father unexpectedly in the preseason, but chose instead to bring a close personal friend on the trip. Others like Robert Thomas brought their grandfathers because their fathers were unavailable.
Whether there’s a relationship between the dads and winning or not, there’s no denying that the trip has been a huge success for the Blues each of the past few seasons. It’s become a tradition the players and the fans alike look forward to each season, and hopefully will continue for years to come.
Big Weekend Ahead
Thursday’s win was a huge one for the Blues, but there’s more work to be done. This weekend will be perhaps the biggest test of the season, and particularly of the second half, as the Blues play the Nashville Predators in a home-and-away back-to-back series on Saturday and Sunday.
Playing one of the best teams in the division and a huge rival will be a significant test for Berube’s Blues, but if recent results are any indication, they may just be up to the task.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.