On January 7th, the St. Louis Blues gave their backup goalie and rookie, Jordan Binnington, the start against the Philadelphia Flyers. It was his first NHL start, and he recorded his first-ever win and shutout. That sort of feat doesn’t happen for every goaltender, so how did it happen for Binnington, and who is he, anyway?
The opportunity came situationally. The Blues were on the front end of a back-to-back, which was an away game against a Flyers team that was currently on a six-game losing skid and sitting in the basement of the Eastern Conference; the game the next evening was at home against the Dallas Stars, who currently sit in a playoff spot. The latter game was a much bigger challenge, and one that the coaching staff would trust to their veteran goaltender and starter, Jake Allen. The Philadelphia game would be the night off for Allen, and a better opportunity for Binnington to succeed.
And succeed he did. In his first NHL start and fourth NHL appearance, Binnington made 25 saves and secured the shutout and the 3-0 Blues win. It may not seem as impressive, as it was coming against a team doing as poorly as the Flyers, but a shutout’s a shutout, and having that kind of success so early in your NHL career can only do great things for your confidence. And it was a long time coming for Binnington.
Binnington was drafted in the third round (88th overall) of the 2011 draft by the St. Louis Blues; he was the third-ranked North American goalie prospect of that year’s draft class, behind John Gibson and Christopher Gibson. He signed his three-year entry-level contract with the Blues in the spring of 2012, and he has been playing in the AHL from that point on until his call-up this season.
Binnington has played in parts of seven AHL seasons, biding his time, putting up some rather good numbers and getting better and better as time went along. In 2014-15 he went 24-15-4 with a 2.35 and .916 in 45 games; in 2015-16 he went 17-18-5 with a 2.85 and .907 in 41 games; in 2016-17 he went 16-7-3 with a 2.71 and .911 in 32 games; in 2017-18 he went 17-9-0 with a 2.05 and .926 in 28 games; this season he went 11-4-0 with a 2.08 and .927 in 16 games. And after 164 AHL games, Binnington finally got to stay in the NHL for an extended time.
He has had some previous NHL experience before this season, though very limited. On November 26th, 2014, Binnington was called up on emergency basis after Blues goaltender Brian Elliott was injured. A few years later after another call-up, Binnington made his NHL debut on January 14th, 2016, relieving Elliott in a 4-1 loss. He played 12:47 and made three saves on four shots.
Binnington started this season in the AHL, but he didn’t stay there for long. The Blues’ backup goaltender Chad Johnson was waived, and Binnington was recalled for good. Since then, he has made two relief appearances (letting in two goals and playing about half the game each time) before making that first start in Philadelphia, which appeared to be a game-changer for him. His success continued into his next start at home against Montreal, in which he saved 28 of 29 shots for a .966 save percentage and recorded the win. Thus far, the only goal he has let in during both of his starts this season went in off the skate of his own teammate. In five career NHL games (four of which have come this season), he is 2-0-0 with a 1.79 goals against average and a .928 save percentage.
Binnington has the potential to be a breath of fresh air for a team that has had historically questionable goaltending, and a chance for starter Jake Allen, who has been very shaky this season, to find some relief. He is also someone for Blues fans, who have had to deal with nothing but misery this season, to cheer for. Binnington is just 25 years old, and he has his entire career ahead of him and a lot of potential. But of course, it’s still very early for him, and he could become just about anything. It’s too early to tell, but these signs are very encouraging for the Blues moving forward.
Header from BleedinBlue