Will the Real Binnington Please Stand up?
When Marshal Mathers AKA “Eminem” needed one more poppy song for his third album “The Marshall Mathers LP” he wrote the dark and forbidding “Stan.” Not the song his label had hoped for. So, one more trip to the writing pad.
He went back to one of his first hits, “My Name Is” and penned the hit “The Real Slim Shady.” He extracted the magic from the first song and duplicated it in the sequel.
Now three years removed from his rookie season and championship run, Jordan Binnington needs to do the same.
Now I am sure many of you think I am mad, but even a recent St. Louis Post Dispatch Article hinted at the same thing. Written by Benjamin Hochman for the paper’s Blues’ season preview, they titled the article “Blues goalie Jordan Binnington may have reached a peak, but he hasn’t peaked.”
Hochman states, “In the two seasons following the Cup win, Binnington is tied for the fourth-most wins in the National Hockey League. His goals against average is 2.60, tied for 14th among guys who played at least 50 games. And down the stretch last season, as the Blues jockeyed for a playoff spot, he went 8-3-3.”
Not mentioned is that Binnington is 0-8-1 in his last two playoffs series and the round-robin in the bubble. During the bubble, Jake Allen replaced him for four games, winning two and losing two. Allen, who was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in the 2020 offseason, has the Blues’ only two playoff wins since game seven in the 2019 Finals.
Hochman, like a majority of Blues Fans, do not fault Binnington for those losses. He writes, “But the Blues’ most-recent playoff series win was, yes, Game 7 in Boston in 2019. The goalie, though, is not to blame for the Blues’ more recent playoff failures, particularly against Colorado. Last May, he was often screened and didn’t allow many, if any, soft goals. He kept the Blues in a couple of those games, especially Game 1, with his 46 saves.”
While this is a team sport, the goalie is the last line of defense. Are there some goals he would want back? I think he would want all of them back. Binnington is full of “piss and vinegar” and the Note have not had that from a goalie maybe ever.
Binnington’s “Do I look Nervous” to him going after three or four San Jose sharks after being lifted in the second period last season, are all a part of the persona that fans have come to love. It is that same demeanor on and off the ice that also might be his biggest weakness.
While Blues fans may love his moxie, other teams and fans don’t. While he was being pulled from the Sharks game, he went after some of the Sharks’ players standing at center ice and the Sharks’ goalie. You could see San Jose players laughing and the national media were also not happy with his antics.
During training camp, Binnington said that he knew he needs to be better.
“You’ve got to stay present and take it one game at a time, but the big picture is, obviously, the postseason and winning the Stanley Cup,” Binnington was quoted by Hochman. “So that’s always on the mind. Saying that, you got to take it one day at a time. It all adds up, all the little details we’re putting together here as a team come through when you least expect it.
“It’s just working on details and little things that you don’t even notice. That’s why it’s good to have a good coach and watch your film and just keep improving little aspects of your game, because you’re not always going to be perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. And that’s kind of the fun part about it — just continuing to grow your game and always trying to perfect it. It’s probably not possible, but you just work toward that consistently.”
These are humbling words from the guy riding a mini-motor bike up and down Market Street. But they are also the words of a more mature person, who knows he can win it all again.
“He’s always got that little bit of swagger; he’s always got that confidence,” said teammate Robert Thomas, a fellow rookie on the 2019 Stanley Cup team. “I think it’s just grown ever since he was a rookie. It gives us a lot of confidence in front of him, when you know you have a guy back there so confident handling the puck — and always having your back.
“I think off the ice, he’s really jumped into a leadership role. He’s always talking with the young guys, he’s always doing stuff for the young guys. So I think on and off the ice he’s really grown in those aspects — it’s great to see.”
While Binnington was a rookie in 2019, he was also 25 years old. His road to the Cup was filled with detours and pratfalls that most would not overcome. At one point, St. Louis had no place for him and loaned him to the Boston Bruins’ minor league team.
Binnington, who recently got engaged to his long-time girlfriend, Canadian actress Cristine Prosperi, has shown that he has matured off the ice.
At 28 and having signed a 6 year $36 million dollar contract extension last season, the team and fan base are looking to Binnington to be that sub 2.00 GAA and .930+ save percentage guy. They want him to be the elite cocky SOB who shut out the Philadelphia Flyers in his first start. Who looked at the hostel crowd in Winnipeg and then pointed to his crotch.
That is the Binnington, we have seen little of the last two seasons.
The Blues are in a division with some of the best goalies in the league. This is the perfect season for Binnington to set himself apart from the middle of the pack and join the elites.
We are asking the big question. Will the real Binnington please stand up? Will he write a dark and forbidding tale like “Stan,” (missing the playoffs), or will he find the magic of the Stanley Cup run? To Tell the Truth, I hope it is the guy who stared down the Bruins in Boston and just barely missed recording a rare game seven shut out in the finals.
Till Next time Hockey fans,
Guy “Hawaii Hockey Fan” Bensing