Admittedly, as much as this particular story has swelled with impressiveness, it’s become slightly bittersweet for me. When Jake Allen, a fellow New Brunswicker, burst onto the scene in St. Louis and was aptly named “the man” in charge of manning the crease this season for the Blues this season, I was beaming with a peculiar sense of… pride? At a minimum, I was rooting for the guy to be ultra successful within a market that doesn’t exactly register on the radars of most Canadians. It’s also very infrequent that a kid from my fellow Maritime province is able to break into the NHL and more rare, sustain a notable and lengthy career. Don’t get me wrong, at 28 years old and with the always-pressing need for consistent goaltending across the league, Allen may still very well achieve that goal.
However, this article isn’t about Jake Allen.
Until about a month ago, also admittedly, I hadn’t really heard of a kid named Jordan Binnington. A native of Richmond Hill, Ontario and drafted 88th overall by the St. Louis Blues all the way back in 2011, the name itself was only vaguely familiar from Team Canada lore, as I remembered him playing for Canada at the 2013 World Junior Championship. But that’s it, that’s the entire package of intelligence I possessed on this now-rising netminder.
Since then, Binnington has essentially stolen Allen’s once-secured job in the crease and has almost single-handedly revived the St. Louis Blues’ season in the process. When the beginning of the 2019 calendar year rolled around (and immediately before a 5–2 victory over the Capitals on January 3rd to be exact), the team appeared to be on life support with a 15–18–4 record and was dangling meagerly near the bottom of the Western Conference. Even with a surplus of talent stretched across the roster, a white flag was close to being waived the 2018–19 season.
Then the Binnington magic arrived.
Fast forward to present day and fresh off an impressive overtime win against a widely-respected Toronto Maple Leafs squad to keep an 11-game win streak alive, the Blues have officially reached “dark horse” contender status. And let’s be real here… ELEVEN consecutive wins in the National Hockey League is absolutely no joke. Now, with a 32–22–5 record, they stand 5th in the conference and only 6 points behind the Nashville Predators in the Central Division (with three less games played).
Of those 11 straight victories, Binnington has been in net for 9 of them, during which, he’s put up some absolutely obscene numbers. In over 500 minutes of ice time, he’s posted an 9–0–0 record to go along with a .947 SV% (stopping 216 of 228 shots faced) and THREE shutouts. Entering the Leafs game, the Blues themselves had posted three consecutive shutouts (two for Binnington and one for Allen). When John Tavares finally struck gold in the third period of the game, it snapped a St. Louis scoreless streak of 233 minutes and 50 seconds. Typically, allowing two goals in a game isn’t exactly crowning achievement. But in this particular game, Binnington literally had a single moment “lapse,” where the Leafs stuffed in a couple of trashy goals only 31 seconds apart (the second one was challenged for goaltender interference and almost didn’t count). Yet, the Blues still managed to come away with the overtime win and the two points.
Overall for the season, Binnington’s individual numbers are equally absurd. In very limited time (he’s started only 15 of the Blues’ 59 games), he’s posted a mind-boggling record of 13–1–1, with a 1.61 GAA and .937 SV%. And although he doesn’t yet qualify for many of the League Leaders categories (a minimum of 20 games played is currently required), his 4 shutouts are tied for second in the entire league. With the share of games that Binnington has been starting over the past two months, it seems like only a matter of time before he not only qualifies, but slides into the league lead for some of the major categories.
Even though it would be a stretch to so abruptly anoint Jordan Binnington as the next “franchise” goaltender for the St. Louis Blues, he has illustrated the many characteristics of a player that deserves to be on top of the depth chart at the netminder position. He’s certainly proven enough to knock poor Jake Allen from being “the guy” to more limited spot starting duty.
Make no mistake, the success of the St. Louis Blues during the months of January and February (17–4–1) can’t be solely credited to Binnington. The team has rallied offensively around the improved play of Vladimir Tarasenko (19 points in 10 February games) and Ryan O’Reilly (61 points in 59 games, including the game-winning goal against the Leafs). But the goaltending and defensive efforts have really been the critical component of this rise up the standings. During “the streak,” the team has allowed only 16 goals in 11 games, and have outscored their opponents by a ridiculous margin of 43–16!
As unforeseen as Jordan Binnington’s arrival has been for the St. Louis Blues, they now seem completely (and rightfully) committed to riding him for the impending playoff push. As the shutouts keep piling up and the Blues point total continues to rise within the Western Conference, the “Binnington Factor” will not only start to register on the radars of Canadians, but on those radars across the entire NHL.