It’s difficult for me to tell if the Blues are ready for the postseason.
We don’t know if Vladimir Tarasenko will be a factor. We don’t know if the Blues can go four-lines deep and have every unit clicking, just like 2019. We don’t know if defenseman Colton Parayko can hold up physically and play close to 100 percent. We don’t know if the power play will be as lethal as we’ve seen during recent times. We don’t know if Brayden Schenn will start pumping in goals. Will Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou continue to fly and produce? Can Mike Hoffman maintain his golden scoring touch? Will the Blues maintain intensity for a full 60 minutes, and into any overtimes?
We just don’t know about so many things…
There are positive signs, of course. Even with Wednesday’s perplexing shootout loss to Anaheim, the Blues are 8-3-2 in their last 11 games.
Despite having played nine of the 11 games against Vegas, Colorado or Minnesota, The Note’s .692 points-collected percentage ranks 8th in the NHL since April 7. The bottom-line improvement is obvious.
But if we look closer at the 11 games, we’ll see a few things that give us something to think about. The scoreboard is everything, of course. But even when coming out on top, the Blues have gotten outplayed too many times.
In the last 11 games at even strength the Blues had 47.6% of the shots on goal, 46% of the scoring chances, and only 39% of the high-danger shots. That 39-percent share ranks last in the league since April 11.
When your team has 42 fewer scoring chances and 45 fewer high-danger shots than opponents at even ice, your record wouldn’t be 8-3-2. Not realistically, anyway.
That is, unless you have Jordan Binnington playing goal.
I’m talking about the real Jordan Binnington.
After the team’s morning skate on April 7, as Binnington was getting ready for that night’s home game against Vegas, Blues coach Craig Berube was asked what he wanted to see from his goaltender. The Blues were stagnating, slumping again, going 2-8-4 in their previous 14 games.
Binnington was alarmingly off form. The Binner wasn’t himself. He had an embarrassing .892 save percentage during that bad-moon-rising time for the Blues. He was 1-5-3 in his last nine starts heading into that April 7 game vs. the VGK.
The Blues had turned to backup Ville Husso for more starts. But after Husso was shelled by Vegas on April 5, Berube went back to the only goaltender to win the Stanley Cup for the St. Louis Blues.
Coach, what do you want to see from Binnington?
“You know, it’s a swagger that he’s always had,” Berube said the morning of April 7. “And I’d like to see him get that back. That’s a big thing I think for our team, but not only for our team but for him. Binner’s been a great goalie in this league. He’s done some great things. He’s won a Cup. And there’s no reason that he shouldn’t have that swagger.”
The swagger is back, which means Binnington is back …
Which enabled the Blues to make their way back …
Despite playing with a significant deficit in shots, scoring chances and high-danger opportunities, the Blues have lost only three times in regulation since April 7.
It’s easy to see why.
The killer B is the No. 1 reason.
Before his turnaround, Binnington was a middle-of-the-pack goaltender statistically. And he rated poorly in save percentage against high-danger chances.
The change has been dramatic.
Here’s what you should know about Binnington’s recent profile. Here’s where he stands among the 30 NHL goaltenders that have played a minimum of 350 minutes at even strength since April 7:
- 8th among 30 in save percentage, .932
- 4th among 30 in high-danger save percentage, .873.
- 2nd in high-danger goals saved above average, 4.04.
- 6th in overall goals saved above average, 5.55.
Despite being outshot overall at even strength, the Blues have outscored opponents 33-26.
Despite having 47% of the scoring chances at even strength, the Blues have scored 59% of the goals flowing from those chances.
Despite being outshot 135 to 87 on high-danger chances, the Blues have scored nearly 58% of the high-danger goals, 15-11.
Based on the quality of all shots for and shots against, the Blues should have scored 44% of the goals at all strengths. Instead, they’ve outscored opponents 48-33, or 56 percent. That’s pretty remarkable.
As always: Goaltending matters.
And as Berube observed — well, not in these exact words — if Binnington’s got the swagger, then Binnington’s got the dagger.
And if #50 holds onto it, the Blues are a more dangerous threat in the West division playoffs.
Thanks for reading …
Please check out Bernie’s 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 live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.