With the NHL post-season returning on August 1st, and the Blues playing their first game on August 2nd, the team needs to be able to hit the ground running. A bad round-robin showing against the Avalanche, Stars, and Golden Knights could mean a less than favorable round one matchup. One poor week of hockey means that the Blues could find themselves out of Cup contention.
It’s tough to get everyone up to speed after nearly four months away from the rink. The Blues have been working on it at camp this week, and with phase 2 workouts before that. The team should be able to pick up where they left off the season - which was being spent actively keeping the Colorado Avalanche out of the top spot in the Central.
Obviously, a key component of the Blues’ post-season success is their goaltending. Jake Allen has been having a bounce-back season. His 2.15 GAA and a .927 SV% is stellar, and it also has given rise to (stop me if you’ve heard this before) a goaltending controversy for the playoffs. Neither goalie is the “hot hand” right now - how can you be a hot hand when you haven’t played for four months? Allen’s stats shine, but even with coming back to earth for his sophomore season, Jordan Binnington is still one of the best goaltenders in the league.
It doesn’t come as much of a shock that NHL Tonight named him the fifth best goaltender in the league. NHL Tonight’s Mike Rupp had high praises for Binnington, and bucked the trend of picking the Bruins or Lightning as the next Cup champions:
“He’s been fantastic. When goalies break into the league, some goalies get hot for 20 games and we think they’re the next great, and then the market kind of corrects itself. Not with this guy though. I love the way he’s come and attacked this season, that’s why the St. Louis Blues are my favorite to win the Stanley Cup again this year.”
Will Binnington be the one that the Blues lean on for the playoffs? I don’t see why not. Allen may get a game, probably in the round robin. If Binnington stumbles, Allen’s a great failsafe - any questions that hung over his head at the start of this season should be gone.
But we’re talking Blues here. Brace yourself if you’re on Twitter. It’s gonna be a hell of a ride.
Here’s the rest of the top ten goalies:
- Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
- Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
- Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars
- Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues
- Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
- Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes
- Robin Lehner, Vegas Golden Knights
- Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks
- Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars