Bernie on the Blues: Jordan Binnington Isn’t Shaky. He’s Money.

I was clicking around on the interweb on Thursday morning, checking out some stuff being said or written about the Blues. Keeping tabs, and all of that.

This headline made me smile: “Binnington Shaky In Win.”

And that’s been a recent theme …that Jordan Binnington  just isn’t himself.

Something isn’t … quite right. 

Was Binnington really shaky in the Blues’ 5-4 shootout win at Calgary on Tuesday.

Well, the Flames scored three power-play goals. And that rarely happens to the Blues. But I also know that power-play (and penalty kill) success can go up or down through random stretches.

There was nothing shaky about Binnington’s play when the Blues and Flames were going at it on 5-on-5 the other night.

Binnington stopped 23 of 24 shots.

The Flames had 60 percent of the scoring chances, and an alarming 80 percent of the high-danger chances, at 5-on-5.

And yet … the Blues outscored the Flames 3-1 when the competition was level at 5 v 5.

Binnington stopped  ALL   EIGHT  of Calgary’s scoring chances (at 5-on-5) from the crease and the slot. That’s absurd. Goalies aren’t supposed to do that.

In the same game, Calgary goaltender Cam Talbot faced only two high-danger chances at 5-on-5 and only stopped one. He allowed three goals in 27 shot attempts — including two from medium-danger range — and was thoroughly outplayed by Binnington.

Along the way to the Monday’s win, Binnington stopped the final 16 shots Calgary cranked on him. He snuffed two breakaways. He repelled three other rushes, and made four stops on rebound attempts. He was in goal when the Blues killed a Calgary PP in overtime. He was in goal during the shootout, where the Flames went 0-for-2.

But Binnington was shaky?

I don’t think so.

There’s some fuss being made over the recent spate of games in which Binnington has allowed four or more goals. Opponents have scored four in their last three games against Binnington. He’s been beaten for at least four goals in five of his last nine starts. His goals-against average in the nine games is 3.22. His overall save percentage in the nine contests is an unsightly .876.

And here are two other numbers from Binnington’s last nine starts:

.860 … Binnington’s save percentage on high-danger shots at 5-on-5.

6-2-1 … that would be the Blues’ record in the nine.

And yes, both factoids are connected.

The people sweating or swearing over Binnington’s supposedly shaky play are missing a helluva trend. It’s a powerful trend established by Binnington and works as a substantial factor in the Blues’ 31-12-8 record.

Pardon the cliche, but this is a big-save goaltender. And that warrants some extra credit — or at least attention. Could Binnington be more consistent? Yes. Has he been at his best on, say, medium-danger shots? No.

And compared to his shocking rookie-season emergence that saved the Blues, and made it possible to win the Stanley Cup, Binnington is giving up more goals per game, and has a lower save percentage.

But did you really expect Binnington to match everything that he did for the Blues last season? That’s unrealistic and greedy.

Here’s the part of the Binnington analysis that’s rarely mentioned, and I really don’t know why: for their first 33 games of the season, through Dec. 13, the Blues regularly got out-played by opponents at 5-on-5 hockey.

Over the first 33 games, the Blues had only 48.5 percent of the shots on goal, 49 percent of the scoring chances, and 43 percent of the high-danger chances.

This could have been a mini-disaster.

Instead, the Blues piled up a lot of wins and points, going 19-8-6 in the 33 games. Their 44 points through Dec. 13 ranked fourth overall in the NHL.

And despite losing the possession and game-control battle, the Blues were able to fend off the wolves because of stellar goaltending provided by Binnington and Jake Allen.

In the first 33 games Binnington and Allen combined for the league’s second-best save percentage on high-danger shots (.865) and were third in save rate on scoring chances (.898.)

For the season, at 5-on-5, Binnington is tied for second in the NHL with an .864 save percentage on high-danger attempts. And using the Goals Saved Above Average metric, he leads all NHL goaltenders (minimum 1,200 minutes at 5v5) with 9.37 goals saved on high-danger chances. Boston’s Tuuka Rask is second at 8.52 goals saved on primo scoring attempts.

And at all strengths, Binnington’s .860 save percentage on high-danger shots ranks No. 1 in the league … as does his 14.85 goals saved above average on high-danger shots.

That’s even better than his .854 save percentage on high-danger shots last season. And better than his 7.33 goals saved above average on high-danger attempts last season.

Binnington isn’t “shaky.”

When the game is on the line, and when it is time to make the most difficult saves that matter most, the dude is money.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie