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Weekend Takeaways: Blues’ Binnington shows goalies impact team performance


Even before this season, Jordan Binnington was already the guy you’d likely cite in any conversation about how goaltending often feels like it amounts to nothing more than an emoji shrug. Six weeks into this campaign, the St. Louis Blues stopper is doubling down on that reputation.

Binnington made 30 saves on Saturday as the Blues won their sixth straight game on the heels of an eight-game losing skid by downing the Anaheim Ducks 6-2. Binnington has now won his past five starts, posting a .936 save percentage in those outings. His five games previous to that run resulted in an 0-5-0 record with an .853 save percentage. Oh, but he started the year winning three straight games with a .940 save percentage.

Dizzy yet?

Obviously a goalie’s fortunes are tied to how the team as a whole is performing and vice-versa. Back when Binnington couldn’t get a win, the Blues also couldn’t score a goal.

But Binnington’s up-and-down season does once again underscore how — aside from a select group of staples — you really don’t know from one year to the next who might rise to the top of the crease crop.

Other goalies to collect wins this weekend include Matt Murray, Ville Husso and Martin Jones.

Murray was solid for the third time in as many starts for the Toronto Maple Leafs since returning from an adductor injury.

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The two-time Cup winner made 32 saves in a victory over the Buffalo Sabres and has a .933 save percentage for the Leafs since getting back in the crease less than a week ago.

Small sample size? Oh yeah. But that’s a great starting point for a guy whose arrival in Toronto wasn’t exactly met with universal celebration thanks to his .899 save percentage in 85 games the past three seasons.

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As for Husso, he was Binnington’s battery-mate last year in Missouri and, for a while, it seemed like he might be another out-of-the-blue find for St. Louis after Binnington went from a guy providing organizational depth to leading the franchise to its only championship in 2019. Husso’s rough playoff and very small body of work (57 career games) didn’t deter the Detroit Red Wings, as they swooped in with a three-year UFA offer. All the Finn — who turned aside 27 shots in a win over Columbus on Saturday — has done in Motown thus far is post two shutouts with a 7-2-3 record.

And, my goodness, what about Martin Jones? Every goalie listed here has some version of a checkered past — Ottawa is eating part of Murray’s salary for a reason — but here’s a guy who was bought out by the San Jose Sharks 18 months ago and did nothing to enhance his reputation during one season in Philadelphia. Naturally, he signs a one-year deal with the Seattle Kraken and when injuries cleared a path to starting, Jones soared.

Since Oct. 29, Jones— who earned an overtime victory over the Kings on Saturday — is tied for first in wins (six) and has the best save percentage (.947) among goalies who’ve played at least four games in the league.

Those in the know would tell you teams probably haven’t done a good enough job figuring out how to evaluate and develop goalies in the past, and are just now beginning to devote the appropriate amount of resources to cultivating talent at the position.

That said, it feels like there will always be an unknowable element to the crease that, year-over-year, will lead to us changing our stance on who’s good and who’s not depending on whose reverse-VH and butterfly slide is making all the saves in the moment.

Other Takeaways

• We were going to tack Alexandar Georgiev onto the above discussion, but given what he did on Saturday, we’ve got to give him is own space. Facing the goalie who backstopped the Colorado Avalanche to a championship last spring, Georgiev posted a 32-save shutout in D.C. against Darcy Kuemper and the Washington Capitals. In Year 1 as a true No. 1 after being traded to Colorado this past summer, the 26-year-old former Ranger has the best five-on-five save percentage (.957) and high-danger save percentage (.926) in the NHL. Georgiev is 4-1-0 in his past five outings with a .944 save percentage.

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• Stuart Skinner (as in, not the guy the Edmonton Oilers signed to a huge UFA contract this past summer to play goal) is second behind Georgiev in both five-on-five SP (.948) and high-danger save percentage (.921). He earned the extra-time win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday, as the Knights went with Adin Hill in goal over Logan Thompson, the latter being another example of an unheralded tender looking awesome this year.

• Vitek Vanecek has done a decent job in goal for the crazy-good New Jersey Devils this year, but how about Akira Schmid stepping in while MacKenzie Blackwood is on the sidelines with an injury? The 22-year-old Swiss rookie won his third game in as many starts this season when New Jersey dumped the Ottawa Senators on Saturday and Schmid now has .941 save percentage in that trio of contests.

• One more goalie-related note before we let it go: The Boston Bruins tied a league record on Saturday with their 11th consecutive home win to start a season. Jeremy Swayman picked up the ‘W’ in the 6-1 drubbing of the Chicago Blackhawks, but the real story for the B’s has been Linus Ullmark’s domestic stats. Playing in Boston this season, the Swede is 8-0-0 with a .947 save percentage.

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• On Sunday, the United States completed a three-game sweep of Canada’s women in the latest instalment of the rivalry series and Seattle sports fans turned out to see it.

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Weekend Warrior

Evgeni Malkin scored a goal in his first NHL game (his first six, actually) and, on Sunday, he notched one in his 1,000th career contest during a 5-3 win over the Blackhawks.

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In between, he’s won a Calder Trophy, two scoring titles and MVP honours in both the regular season and playoffs to go along with three rings. Quite a ride for a defining player of the past 15 years.

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Red and White Power Rankings

1. Winnipeg Jets (10-5-1) Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins was just the second time in 11 outings that the Jets have been defeated in a 60-minute game and the first time they’ve been blanked this season.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs (10-5-4) William Nylander scored twice in the win over Buffalo, has four goals in his past three games and — with 10 tallies in 19 contests this season — is suddenly tracking the first 40-goal campaign of his career.

3. Edmonton Oilers (10-8-0) The Oilers put just 23 shots on the Vegas net during its extra-time win on Saturday and low shot totals have been a bit of a trend for most of this month. Since Nov. 5, the Oilers are averaging just 26.9 shots on goal (fourth-worst in the league) and their high-danger five-on-five Corsi percentage during that same stretch is 45.1 per cent, better than just seven squads in the NHL.

4. Calgary Flames (8-7-2) Does Adam Ruzicka have your attention yet? His 2-1-3 outing in the shootout win in Florida on Saturday gives the 23-year-old Slovakian seven points in his past four outings after being a regular healthy scratch in October. He must get to collect most of the money Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar put on the board ahead of the contest versus their former club.

5. Montreal Canadiens (9-8-1) One game as a Montreal Canadien, one goal for local boy Mike Matheson after he returned ahead of schedule from an abdominal injury and buried one at the Bell Centre during his team’s come-from-behind shootout win over the visiting Philadelphia Flyers.

6. Vancouver Canucks (6-9-3) Brock Boeser finally got his first two goals of the season on Friday and they were both blue-paint jobs that likely travelled a combined distance of six feet. However they came, you know the right winger must be relieved to get off the schneid.

7. Ottawa Senators (6-10-1) Is a California roadie just what the doctor ordered for the Sens following a 5-1 loss to the Devils? Ottawa heads west this week to play the three Cali teams — plus Vegas — and could really stand to find some good vibes out there.

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The Week Ahead

• After a summer of weighing options, Patrice Bergeron opted to return for another season with the Bruins. He registered two points on Saturday, is scoring at a 41-goal pace for the B’s this year and can register career point No. 1,000 in Tampa Bay on Monday night. I guess there was a little tread left of the tires.

• Also on a busy Monday, the Devils will try to equal a franchise record set during their Cup-winning days 20 years ago when they go for their 13th straight win.

• Thanksgiving in the U.S. can mean only one thing; no hockey Thursday followed by awesome afternoon action on Black Friday. Four Canadian squads — Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Ottawa — are playing matinees in the U.S. on Friday.

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