Competing with recharged energy, showing a higher level of pride and determination, the Blues began to pick up the pieces of their season with Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Vegas at Enterprise Center.
The Note snapped out of their extensive and deflating funk, and terminated a seven-game winless streak. The got closer to fourth place and a playoff spot, now trailing Arizona by three.
A win is always nice. Especially at home. Especially after the slip-sliding Blues all but skated their way to the edge of a cliff.
But what does this mean?
Goaltender Jordan Binnington delivered a message after the game. “We’re coming,” he said to Bally Sports Midwest analyst Darren Pang. And Binner spoke firmly. But he didn’t guarantee it.
Are the Blues coming or going?
Coming on to make a late rush, to earn a spot in the postseason tournament?
Or will they be going back to their recent rut of uninspired performances, marked by acute goal shortages?
Coming or going? The question could also be used in advance of the upcoming NHL trade deadline. We’re on the Doug Armstrong Watch, waiting to see if the Blues GM will offload pending unrestricted free agents — or acquire a player to upgrade the roster.
We’ll find out about all of these things over the next three games, as the Blues hook up with Minnesota for two games in St. Louis, then one in St. Paul. The Blues will play Minnesota seven times in their 17 remaining games. They also have four with Colorado, two with Vegas. All three opponents rank among the NHL’s top nine teams in points percentage. The Blues will have a head-to-head showdown with Arizona in Glendale on April 17.
Based on the current standings, 14 of the Blues’ final 17 games will match them with four teams that have winning records and hold a playoff spot. But the Avs, Golden Knights and Wild are safe bets for the postseason.
The Blues will have a chance to collect points in two games vs. Anaheim and one with Los Angeles. But to climb into the playoffs, the Blues must overtake the fourth-place Coyotes. And that game at Arizona won’t count for much if the Blues get clobbered in their 13 crucial tests against the big three in the West division.
The more immediate concern: If the Blues backslide against Minnesota in the next three games, the win over Vegas will go into the dumpster. The win over Vegas will be important only if the Blues can turn the momentum and positive vibe into immediate success against the Wild.
Back to Binnington.
I’m sure we all can agree on this: the Blues’ shaky position in the playoff race will give way and collapse unless Binnington stays up. His amazing performance against Vegas must be repeated many times over during his team’s frantic push.
Vegas threw everything at Binnington except live grenades. In 60 minutes, the Golden Knights directed an astonishing 95 shots at the Blues’ net. They put 51 shots on goal. They had 29 high-danger scoring chances.
Binnington the Brilliant made 50 saves overall. He stopped all 19 high-danger shots on goal, including seven on the penalty kill. It was, in short, Binnington’s game of the season and long overdue.
Before Wednesday night’s impeccable show of resistance, Binnington ranked 24th among 36 NHL goaltenders in save percentage at .904 (minimum 1,000 minutes.) His high danger save percentage (.772) ranked 33rd among the 36.
Binnington returned to form Wednesday. He also returned to playing with confident fury. He was the difference between losing and winning. He defied Vegas and swiped two points for the Blues. Bravo!
“It’s not always going to be perfect,” Binnington said after the game. “It’s how you respond to adversity or just finding more digging deep inside. We needed a little more. We played a great game tonight. We’ve just got to keep building off that. We’re competitors and we’re going to fight until the end.”
If a revitalized, confident Binnington can play like this, the Blues will be more viable and dangerous than expected. If he slinks and regresses and gets beaten on soft goals, it’s over. Forget the playoffs.
Coming or going?
Will Binnington come up big or go back into his shell?
Thanks for reading …
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