Generally speaking, there’s nothing positive about injuries or illnesses that remove regulars from the lineup and make a team rely heavily on backups or guys at the lower end of the depth chart.
The Blues are going through that right now, doing their best to tough it out and collect points despite the absence of six players: goaltender Jordan Binnington, defenseman Justin Faulk, winger David Perron, winger James Neal, winger Klim Kostin and center Tyler Bozak. And we can update that list to seven; center Robert Thomas (lower-body injury) won’t play in Tuesday night’s home vs. Florida.
But I want to amend my opening remarks … actually, there can be some positives to pull from the damage. It gives those backups and down-roster players a chance to play, contribute, earn respect and increase their stock within the organization.
I’d like to talk about one of those individuals: goaltender Ville Husso. He’s good. I mean, really good. And we can issue the usual disclaimers about small sample sizes, but that shouldn’t diminish the performance we’ve seen from Husso in his starts this season. And this quality play goes back to late last season, when the rookie Husso gained confidence and became a sturdy presence in front of the net after a shaky and alarming start to his NHL career. That’s carried over into 2021-22.
In six starts Husso has a .938 save percentage at five on five. That ranks 7th among 50 NHL goaltenders that have played at least 295 minutes at five on five. Husso also ranks 7th in save percentage (.929) at all strengths among 55 goaltenders that have at least 350 minutes of action.
Making the first back-to-back set of starts in his early NHL career, Husso was terrific during the Blues’ two-game Florida adventure. With the Blues getting outshot 86-52 (all strengths) by Tampa Bay and Florida in the two games, Husso gave them a chance to win.
This tells us a lot: in the two games the Florida teams had a huge 35-16 advantage on high-danger shots – but only had one more high-danger goal (3-2) than the Blues. And Saturday at Florida the Panthers had 67 percent of the shots on goal overall – but the teams scored the same number of goals (three.)
Small sample or not, that’s impressive work.
“It’s two games in a row I thought he played really well,” Blues coach Craig Berube after the 4-3 shootout loss at Florida “Held us in there today and gave us a chance to win.”
Defenseman Colton Parayko: “Obviously he’s a very good goaltender. I feel like he’s a really sound goalie. I don’t know a ton about goaltending, but he just always seems to be in the right position, makes it look easy. I feel like when you’re doing that, it’s when the pucks are always hitting you. He’s just a good goalie overall. Glad to see him playing well.”
Former Blues goaltender Jake Allen told Andy Strickland (Bally Sports Midwest) that Husso is the most talented goaltender he’s ever seen. That’s a helluva compliment from Jake.
This season Husso is doing a cleaner job of controlling rebounds as evidenced by the rate of 2.6 rebounds against him per 60 minutes. Binnington has allowed 3.1 rebounds per 60. His lengthy 6-3 frame sure covers a lot of ice, and he doesn’t have to scramble as much as many goaltenders. It isn’t as easy for shooters to find an opening.
Perhaps that partially explains why Husso statistically is the best goaltender in the NHL this season at stopping those wicked high-danger chances from the slot and crease. His .894 high-danger save percentage at five on five is not only phenomenal — but ranks No. 1 on the board. His all-strengths save percentage (.895) on high-danger attempts also ranks No. 1 in the league.
And if we go back to March 20 of last season and add his games to this season’s showing Husso still has the NHL’s best high-danger save percentage (.885) at five on five, and at all strengths (.889.) These are ridiculously strong numbers, albeit in only 13 regular-season games over that time.
Another stat that highlights Husso’s stellar play: at five on five this season the average shot distance against him is only 31 feet, four inches. That’s the second-shortest shot distance against any NHL goaltender this year at five on five (minimum 295 minutes.) Not many long-distance drives against this goaler; he’s handling the incoming hot shots.
Needless to say, Husso will have to prove himself over time. But for now, Husso’s regular-season numbers are better than Jordan Binnington’s regular-season numbers since March 20 of last season.
That’s really something given the Blues’ decision to hand Binnington a pen to sign a six-year, $36 million contract extension around the same time that Husso started to play well in the NHL. Conclusion? If Binnington has to miss time or is just given a day off, I don’t think the Blues and the fans have to worry about the goaltending. Bad days are inevitable, sure. But I’ll go back to what I wrote earlier: Husso is really, really good.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
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Stats used here were culled from Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Reference unless otherwise noted.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.