Who will be the starting goalie for the St. Louis Blues against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Friday (9:45 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, FS-MW) with the Blues facing elimination?
Will it be Jordan Binnington, the backbone for the Blues in their run to the Stanley Cup last season? Or will it be Jake Allen, who was pushed to the bench last season as Binnington began his rise from obscurity?
Binnington started and lost the first two games of the best-of-7 series against the Canucks, the No. 5 seed in the West, allowing nine goals on 47 shots. He is 0-4-0 with a 4.27 goals-against average and an .862 save percentage this postseason.
Allen started the past three games; he won his first two against the Canucks, allowing three goals on 61 shots, before allowing four goals on 30 shots in Game 5. He is 2-1-1 with a 1.86 GAA and a .939 save percentage this postseason.
Now the Blues, the No. 4 seed, are at a crossroads and must figure out which goalie gives them the best chance of reaching Game 7, which would be played Sunday in Edmonton, the hub city for the West. It is arguably the toughest decision Craig Berube has had to make since he became St. Louis coach last season.
Berube said Thursday he did not know which goalie would start and needed more time to think about the decision.
NHL.com polled four of its writers to see if they could come to a consensus on whether it should be Binnington or Allen.
Here are their thoughts:
Dan Rosen, senior writer
This is easy for me. Jake Allen did his job. He was good. But with the season on the line, the Blues need to go back to their money goalie. Berube has to put his faith in Binnington and hope that some time off helped him get his game back on track. Binnington has not been good since the Blues got to Edmonton; he has allowed 15 goals on 85 shots in his past three starts. But he’s a No. 1 goalie. He’s a champion. He’s clutch. He went 3-0 with a .966 save percentage in the three games the Blues could have been eliminated in during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. The Blues and Binnington needed a pick-me-up, and Allen gave it to them. Now it’s time for Binnington to take it the rest of the way.
David Satriano, staff writer
Though Dan makes a good point about Binnington and the success he had last season, we know in the NHL it’s all about what you have done lately. Facing elimination isn’t the time to allow him to right the ship, especially with Allen playing so well. True, Allen allowed four goals in Game 4, but he kept the Blues in the game. Prior to that, Allen had allowed four goals on 102 shots in the postseason. Berube should go with the hot hand and start Allen in Game 6.
Pete Jensen, senior fantasy editor
Allen was not at his best in Game 5 but still gave the Blues a chance to tie that topsy-turvy game by not allowing a goal in the third period. Allen and center Ryan O’Reilly are the biggest reasons the Blues are in this series. But I agree more with Dan here; I would go back to Binnington in Game 6, especially considering he was 8-2 with a 1.78 GAA and .937 save percentage in games following a loss last postseason. Binnington should have made the save on the tiebreaking goal in the third period of Game 1 and then lost Game 2 in overtime. He has earned the right to play in elimination games for the Blues after helping them win the Stanley Cup as a rookie.
Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial
As my three colleagues have pointed out, Binnington is a big part of the Blues’ past glory, his Cinderella story an inspiring tale for late bloomers and the central theme of their championship run last season. But is his past enough to ensure his place in Game 6? I say no. His save percentage is .809 in his two games against the Canucks, who seem to have a pretty good book on him. Even after allowing four goals Wednesday, Allen has a .935 save percentage against Vancouver. Allen is fresh, he is focused, and he is the choice for the Blues’ present circumstances.