At some point during Wednesday’s game between the Winnipeg Jets and the St. Louis Blues, I bet the Jets were thinking to themselves, “can we get that other guy in net, please?”
The answer was no. If the big and bad bullies of the North were going to go through St. Louis, the little engine that won’t quit, they’d have to deal with Jordan Binnington, the 25-year-old goaltending phenom who could go from minor league prisoner to Calder Trophy owner in six months.
The Jets tried their best to phase the kid, who was already dealing with some off-the-ice bullshit that I won’t even dig into here because the writer doesn’t deserve clicks. On the first play of the game, a Jets player ran into Binnington, even if he told the media it was an accident. Sure, bucko. It was as much of an accident as your birth. Binnington didn’t get phased, telling one of his teammates it wasn’t bad and he was alright.
Here’s the thing. Ice may indeed run through Binnington’s veins. Ever since he asked the media, “do I look nervous?” the kid has given off the air of a veteran who has played in a 1,000 NHL games. He doesn’t look like a rookie riding the sails of an incredible season turnaround. Ask anybody and they will tell you Binnington has been the backbone of the turnaround, and to be honest, it’s not easy to disagree.
Take Wednesday’s Game 1 victory. The Jets got a puck past Binnington. A point blank beautiful rip from Patrik Laine that gave Winnipeg a 1-0 lead. However, Binnington didn’t relent or hang his head. He didn’t whine or look around. He kept stopping shots, keeping his team in the game. The Blues had a chance because Binnington held the fort. Right when you think some playoff intensity could break his spirit, he saves 24 shots and bags his first playoff win.
Now, the Jets are eating out of his hand. At this moment, they are thinking of new ways to not only score on him, but get inside his head. They can’t stand it. This rookie nobody coming into their house, loud as ever, and silencing them. Remember what Laine said before the game? Something about putting a lot of shots on Binnington and watching him cave. You score, Patrik, so I tip my cap. But you got nowhere near solving or breaking the Blues goalie.
Right now, Binnington is in the Jets’ head. He’s got his feet up in the air too. In Game 2, the pressure is on Winnipeg to do a few things:
1) Don’t get your ass kicked by Craig Berube before the puck drops.
2) Stop the momentum shift the Blues pulled off in the third period.
3) Watch out for that Vladimir Tarasenko guy, who got close in Game 1.
4) Find a way to keep Pat Maroon from dragging four more of your guys behind the net.
5) Get pucks past Binnington.
It’s a full plate. Good luck, Winnipeg. As Brian Regan once said, you better take it.
Going into Game 1, I spoke with NHL Network host, Jackie Redmond, about Binnington’s chances to transitioning into the playoffs. Basically, would he crack under pressure? She wasn’t worried about him at all. The adversity he had faced in his career had prepared him for this moment, Redmond said.
I’d say I agree now. So do the Jets.
Good luck, Winnipeg. You’ll need in Game 2.