Jordan Binnington admitted he did not live up to his expectations for himself in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the goalie also said there’s not much he needs to change in order to regain the form that helped the St. Louis Blues win their first Stanley Cup championship, in 2019.
“For me personally, I know how good I am and how good I can be, and I expect better of myself,” Binnington said Wednesday. “Sometimes it’s not going to go your way and you’ve got to get back on the horse and keep working and find your way.”
Binnington was speaking five days after the Blues were eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks in six games in the Western Conference First Round. In the deciding game, he allowed four goals on 18 shots before being pulled in the second period of a 6-2 loss. Jake Allen, who replaced him, had started Games 3, 4 and 5 of the series after Binnington allowed nine goals on 47 shots (.809 save percentage) in Games 1 and 2.
Binnington finished the postseason 0-5-0 with an NHL-worst 4.72 goals-against average and .851 save percentage (minimum five games), a far cry from his numbers as a rookie last season, when he was 16-10 with a 2.46 GAA and .914 save percentage.
Despite the drop-off, Binnington said he can be better without completely revamping his game. He believes in his foundation and doesn’t want to read too much into the small sample size caused by the unique Return to Play Plan that was created after the NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
“I’ve struggled before. It took me a long time to get to where I’m at,” said Binnington, who made his first NHL start more than seven years after he was selected in the third round (No. 88) of the 2011 NHL Draft. “To stay at the top, it’s tough. You’ve got to stay on top of yourself. For me, everything I do is a learning experience. You go through it, reflect and understand what makes you feel good and what didn’t work out for you. You live and learn and you grow. That’s kind of my outlook.”
Allen provides the perfect example for him.
The Blues backup went through a similar struggle to start this season, with a 3.72 GAA and .855 save percentage in three starts over a five-week period. But after adapting to his reduced role, Allen finished the season 12-6-3 with an NHL career-best 2.15 GAA and .927 save percentage.
“It’s about trusting yourself, trusting the process, trusting my game,” Allen said Nov. 5. “I know I’m a good goalie in this league, and I just have to keep going back to that and not straying from my game because I know my game works, and when it does, it’s good.”
There was a similar feel listening to Binnington discuss his game in the playoffs.
“You can talk about this all day, but it’s a couple games and I know how to take care of myself,” Binnington said. “I think if you look at the big picture, it’s a pretty good season. I gained a lot more experience, got some good ice, and we won a lot of hockey games. For me, it’s focus on the positives and learn from your experiences.”
There were a lot of positives to build upon following Binnington’s rookie season, when he was 24-5-1 with a 1.89 GAA and .927 save percentage and finished second in voting for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year behind Canucks forward Elias Pettersson. And although his statistics were not as good this season — 30-13-7 with a 2.56 GAA and .912 save percentage — you can make the argument that Binnington faced more high-quality scoring chances.
One person who isn’t worried about Binnington is Blues coach Craig Berube.
“He does have a short memory and moves on from things,” Berube said. “He wasn’t at his best (in the playoffs), just like a lot of our team, but he’ll move on and he’ll be OK. He’s performed at a very high level. He played extremely well this year. He’ll move on from it and get over it.”
Binnington’s belief in himself and the foundation he’s built with his personal coaches and trainers during the past three offseasons should not be mistaken as complacency. If anything, his struggles coming out of the pause, during which Binnington couldn’t replicate that same offseason work, only reinforces his need to get back to the foundation.
So don’t expect a makeover from Binnington. Despite his poor finish, it doesn’t appear necessary.
“You have your foundations, right, and you build off that,” Binnington said. “For me, it’s get back.”