Through four games in the first round best-of-seven series, the St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota Wild are tied up at two games apiece. This has not come as much of a surprise considering how even the two teams were throughout the regular season, but how we got here has been a bit of an unexpected ride even by our predictions for the series.
The Blues came out strong in Game 1 of the series, winning by a score of 4-0 on the road thanks to a David Perron hat trick and a shutout performance from Ville Husso in his first career playoff start. Minnesota then responded with two blowout wins of their own in Games 2 and 3, outscoring the Blues 11-3 in the two contests. With Husso and the Blues looking lost going into Game 4, head coach Craig Berube made the switch and gave Jordan Binnington the starting nod.
Arguably the greatest attribute a goaltender can have is the ability to shine under pressure. The only goaltender in Blues history to win the Stanley Cup, Binnington has displayed throughout his career that he rises to the occasion when the team needs it most. He did just that in St. Louis’ 5-2 win in Game 4, stopping 28 of 30 Minnesota shots and being named the first star of the game. Binnington is surely set to start in Game 5 and with the potential returns of Nick Leddy and Robert Bortuzzo, the Blues’ defence is looking that much more solid as this series progresses.
Interestingly enough, Sunday’s win was Binnington’s first in the playoffs since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2019. He was substituted for Jake Allen in the team’s two victories in the first round in 2020, and the Blues were swept in the first round in 2021. With the weight of that playoff losing streak off his shoulders, Binnington will be key for the Blues in winning this series.
Binnington Strong vs Wild Historically
There was certainly an argument to be made that Binnington should have started Game 1 of this series. His resume as a Cup-winning goaltender says so as does his contract situation, especially when compared to Husso’s contract. However, hockey is a numbers-based business and Binnington’s career numbers against the Wild indicate that his Game 4 performance is likely to be duplicated. Going into this series, Binnington had started nine games in his career against Minnesota, compiling an impressive 7-1-1 record to go along with a remarkable goals-against average of 2.12 and a .926 save percentage.
Including the Game 4 win, that makes eight out of ten wins for Binnington in his career against the Wild. Once again, it is a numbers-based business, and the most important numbers are wins and losses, and with that kind of track record, Binnington should get the nod for the rest of the series and it could be questioned whether he should have been playing from the start.
Health on Defense Plays Pivotal Role
While Husso certainly struggled in Games 2 and 3 of this series, he was far from the only one to blame for the Blues’ lacklustre performances. The overall health of the Blues’ defence has not been there, with the team seeming to lose another defenseman to injury in every game of the series. The depth has been severely tested, with inexperienced players like Niko Mikkola and Calle Rosen being forced to play up the lineup in situations that they frankly don’t appear to be ready for just yet.
The good news is that it appears reinforcements could be on the way. After sustaining upper-body injuries early in the series and missing time, Leddy and Bortuzzo both look likely to return to the lineup for Game 5 in Minnesota. With Binnington expected to get the start, he will benefit from a much more experienced blue-line than the one that was in front of Husso in his last two starts. With Torey Krug and Marco Scandella both looking unlikely to play in the near future, the Blues’ defence still will not be at 100% and likely will not be for the rest of the series. However, a rejuvenated Binnington could make up for that lack of defensive depth.
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