Could a major Canadian celebrity be preparing to take on a reigning Stanley Cup Champion goaltender at an NHL arena? We’ll cover the wildest story of the day in the hockey world, and take a look at the goaltender who pitched a shutout to send the mighty Americans home from the World Junior Championship (WJC).
Binnington Challenges Bieber
Love him or hate him, no one has a neutral opinion on Justin Bieber. The 25-year-old London, Ontario native is a pop sensation around the world, and one of the most notorious fans of the NHL. Stanley Cup Champion goaltender Jordan Binnington knows that which is why he stepped up to the plate and challenged Bieber to a little contest.
Seeing the video Bieber posted on Instagram a few days ago of his goal on a breakaway in a recreational game, the soon-to-be All-Star goalie issued a challenge: “10 breakaways me vs you. You score one on me I’ll dye my hair platinum blonde @justinbieber.” The hockey world held its breath and urged Bieber to respond to the challenge.
Finally, a day later, the singer responded: “how bout 10 thousand dollars to charity I score and you donate to a charity of my choice and we film it. @binniner.”
The two principal parties were agreed, but the shootout was still in need of a venue. Fortunately, Budweiser Canada stepped in, upped the ante, and suggested an ideal venue: the NHL 2020 All-Star Game, conveniently taking place in Binnington’s home arena (and Budweiser’s hometown, for that matter) Jan. 24-25.
There’s no official word yet, but with all this momentum, it would be a shame to see this not come to fruition. The NHL is constantly searching for ways to draw more eyes to the All-Star Game. It certainly seems like this duel between Bieber and Binnington would be — to borrow a phrase from another sport popular in St. Louis — a home run in that department.
Annunen Shuts Out the Americans
In our 2020 WJC Day 7 Preview, we noted that the quarterfinal matchup between Finland and the United States was too close to call, but that “the key to this game [might] be which goaltender stands tallest.” In the showdown between 2019 13th overall Florida Panthers draft pick Spencer Knight and 2018 64th overall Colorado Avalanche pick Justus Annunen, it was the latter who stood just slightly taller.
In sixty minutes of action, the lamp was illuminated just once, and it was above the goal behind Knight. Joonas Oden’s third-period goal beat the American netminder, and it was the difference in the 1-0 finish. Knight stopped 28 other shots, but it wasn’t enough to carry his team into the semifinal.
On the opposite end of the rink, Annunen was perfect, stopping all 30 shots aimed his direction. It was the latest in a string of great showings at the WJC, where he has a .936 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.97 goals-against average (GAA). He is one of just three goalies (with Russia’s Amir Miftkahov and Sweden’s Hugo Alnefelt) with a shutout at this tournament.
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Annunen’s Finns will now meet Joel Hofer and the Canadians in the semifinal on Saturday. Hofer has also been outstanding, with a .923 SV% and a 1.65 GAA. Once again, it may be the best goaltender who wins, as is ever the case in the world of hockey.
Goalie Gram: Scenes from the Winter Classic
The Winter Classic took place on Wednesday with the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators facing off at the Cotton Bowl. It’s one of the NHL’s most unique events, with many special moments for the players behind the scene. Fortunately for us, Stars goalie Anton Khudobin was there to capture them.
Though it was Ben Bishop and not Khudobin who started the game, it’s obvious that the game means as much to the backups as it does to the starters. Down 2-0 early, the host Stars rallied back with three goals in the third period to win the game 4-2. It was a spectacular event for the NHL and for both teams involved.
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.