Back in early November, I wrote a piece here at 101 ESPN.com that suggested the Blues “give Jordan Binnington some NHL minutes, and give (Jake) Allen a break.” Well, the Blues did indeed waive Chad Johnson and got Binnington some time, and since his starting debut on January 7, he’s proven to be impressive.
The Blues started playing better and providing more effort, especially at home, once Binnington got an opportunity. While I don’t think they should bury Allen on the bench, I would like to see if “BinNasty” is capable of being a regular NHL goalie by starting his responsibly. This year with San Antonio, he led the AHL with a 2.08 goals against average with a .927 save percentage in sixteen games. He’s seen a gradual improvement in his numbers during a seven-year AHL career, with a career high of 45 games. In seven games with the Blues this year, he’s 4-0-1 with a 1.62 GAA and a .936 SV%. At home, where Jake Allen has been awful, JB has a 2-0-0 record with a 2.33 GAA and a .917 SV%. So it makes sense to use Binnington in most games while not skating him into the ice.
With 35 games left in the season…unless the Blues trade for a number one goalie…why not see if Binnington can carry the load? Among those 35, the Blues have fourteen games that are part of back-to-backs, and 21 road games. With ten weeks left, they’ll play four games in five of those weeks, and have four three game weeks. There aren’t going to be any opportunities for significant goalie rest. Allen has struggled at Enterprise Center this year with a 3.65 GAA and an .878 SV%. If interim coach Craig Berube decides to play Binnington in every home game…not a bad decision…that would get Binnington fourteen starts right there. Of course, Allen is going to get seven starts as part of back-to-back games in the schedule. With the road schedule the way it is, planning to play Binnington 25 games and Allen ten would seem to be a decent split.
Is that all that needs to happen for the Blues to make the playoffs? Certainly not. As they try to close a four-point gap between themselves and the last wild card spot and a five-point deficit for the last division playoff spot, they need to get healthy. They’re scoring three or more goals on a regular basis, but can’t seem to put their lineup together. Second leading scorer David Perron missed Saturday’s game against Ottawa with an upper body injury and will miss the pre All Star game west coast trip. Tyler Bozak and Zach Sanford…both useful third- or fourth-line players…are on injured reserve with concussions. The emerging Robert Thomas has been out since January 10 with a shoulder injury. So the Blues need to get their guys back. With their All-Star Break and their bye combined, they will have nine days off to heal some of their injuries.
The other thing the Blues need to do it get some of their young veterans to ascend. Robby Fabbri has two goals and three assists in 23 games, and can’t seem to recapture the form he displayed as a rookie, especially in the playoffs. Joel Edmundson was good last season, but is woefully inconsistent this year and is relegated to the press box all too often. Brayden Schenn, a team leading 70-point scorer in 2017-2018, has 26 points so far this year, and Jaden Schwartz has three goals and 20 points. There’s certainly more production to be had from those four.
For this team to find relatively consistent effort is a testament to Berube. Since December 11, they’re 11-7-1 after a 10-14-4 start. The record since Binnington’s first start is 5-2-1. I’d like to see what this team is capable of if he’s getting most of the starts in goal, they get reasonably healthy, and some underachieving players perform the way we expected them to at the beginning of the season.