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The Blues have a goaltending tandem, not a controversy

They’ve been here before, year after year. Is this year anything different?

NHL: San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Allow me to preface this with what appears to be necessary, judging by both the rabid defense and derision of Jordan Binnington right now among Blues fans on social media: I do not have a dog in this fight. I do not think that Jordan Binnington is the greatest goalie to grace the Blues’ crease, nor do I think that he is the worst. I want whoever is in net - Binnington, Husso, Lindgren, that EBUG they signed a while ago - to play well and have the benefit of the team playing well in front of them.

Clearly Jordan Binnington did not have that benefit in Monday night’s disastrous 7-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. Absolutely nothing worked in that game, and frankly, the defensive problems that the team’s offense has been covering for all season long became terribly apparent. However, since the Stanley Cup win in 2019, Jordan Binnington has consistently shown that he has been above league average at best, below league average at worst, and the beneficiary of some terribly inconsistent play while at it.

The reason he was given his six-year, $6 million AAV contract is not because he blew everyone away with his numbers in the post-Cup bridge deal that he got. Doug Armstrong signed him because a) Stanley Cup, b) known quantity c) $6 million AAV is reasonable now for a starting goaltender. The Cup gave Binnington leverage and the market carried the way for him, and now we have a goalie with three years of a NMC and three of a modified NMC putting up a 3.27 GAA with a .901 save percentage.

Yes, Ville Husso is playing amazing this year. No, Ville Husso is not the starting goaltender - he is a backup whose contract is up this year, playing for a raise. He’s the hot hand, and clearly Binnington is not. Whether that’s because the “team has more confidence in front of Husso” or not really isn’t for us to tell, because none of us are privy to the Blues’ locker rooms, and while I teach psychology, I am not a sports psychologist. Maybe there is some subconscious security going on with the team when Husso is in net. That makes sense, seeing as right now he’s the goalie making the big saves, while Binnington is letting in at least three goals a game. The inspiring big saves aren’t there right now. Binnington is looking like an insecure Jake Allen right before Allen got strongarmed out of the starting position.

Binnington hasn’t been that 2019 Cup run goaltender since 2019. Teams have gotten tape on him and figured him out, and that calm, cool, and collected goalie - Mr. “Do I look nervous?” - looks perpetually reactive. Binnington’s responded by being a temperamental hothead when he doesn’t play well, instead of channeling that into his game, so it should be zero surprise when as play continues to slip. He’s frustrated, and instead of focusing on fundamentals, he’s too busy skating out of his crease and taking whiff swings at guys with his stick from 40 feet out.

It’s no surprise that Husso is resurgent right now, or is the hot hand - and if he’s the hot hand, he’s going to get the starts. There’s no reason to put points on the line just to help the starting goalie “get back into the game” when that’s looking increasingly like a long shot.

Ride the damn hot hand until Binnington gets his head on straight. This is not a new phenomenon in Blues goaltending history. Remember Manny Legace and Chris Mason in 2008-2009? Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott in 2011-2012 through 2013-2014? Elliott and Jake Allen in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016? Carter Hutton and Jake Allen in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018?

Jake Allen and Jordan Binnington in 2018-2019?

The Blues have had this situation nearly every season for over a decade. Most teams would count themselves fortunate to have a 1A-1B tandem for several reasons, from preventing goalie overwork to having someone reliable to depend on when the other goaltender gets into a funk. The Blues’ goaltending tandems have often served the purpose of motivation as well as security. Some goalies, like Allen (until the 2019 portion of that season) like competition and it improves play. Some find comfort in not having the pressure of being “the guy” 24/4.

What Binnington does with the position that he currently finds himself in - how he responds - is up to him. If he uses Husso as motivation, or if he gets some relief out of knowing he isn’t the only go-to on the team, then he can yank this season’s play around. If he views Craig Berube’s use of Husso as some sort of personal insult, or commentary on his play past the reality of the situation, things won’t change.

There’s no shame in being part of a tandem. The Blues have made it work for years, and it can work again this season, if and when Binnington gets his head on straight.