There is no doubt that Jordan Binnington has one of the most remarkable stories of any player in the NHL in terms of his journey to the NHL. He was taken with the 88th overall pick of the 2011 NHL Draft in the third round by the St. Louis Blues. After being drafted, Binnington would return to his OHL team, the Owen Sound Attack for a couple more seasons before moving to the Blues’ AHL affiliate at the time in the Chicago Wolves. During the 2015-16 season while with the Wolves, Binnington was then called up to the Blues for the first time in his career. Then due to Blues netminder Brian Elliott suffering an injury in a January game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Binnington made his NHL debut, stopping three of four shots that he saw in a 4-1 Blues loss. That would be the only NHL action Binnington would see at the time, as he was sent back down to Chicago. But with the Blues in the process of switching their AHL affiliate to the San Antonio Rampage during the 2017-18 season, Binnington had no place to play as there was an influx of goalies in San Antonio. He was then loaned to the Providence Bruins, where Binnington would start to make headway in his career. Binnington would appear in 28 games for Providence during the 2017-18 season, going 17-9-0 with a .926 SV% and 2.05 GAA which earned him the honor of being named an AHL All-Star.
After the roster was straightened out in San Antonio, Binnington returned to the Rampage for the start of the 2018-19 season where he continued to have success, going 11-4-0 with a .927 SV% and 2.08 GAA. Binnington was then called up to the struggling Blues in December, as starter Jake Allen was struggling and the team had just waived backup goaltender Chad Johnson. What happened next would be unprecedented. Binnington made his first NHL start on January 7, 2019 which was a 25 save shutout on the road against the Philadelphia Flyers. Binnington would carry the Blues down the road in the second half of the season, going an outstanding 24-5-1 with a .927 SV% and a league leading 1.89 GAA. His regular season performance earned him second in votes in the Calder Trophy, finishing closely second of Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks. But Binnington was not even close to done yet, as he would lead the Blues to their first Stanley Cup win in franchise history and became the first rookie in NHL history to start and win all 16 games of a playoff run. In total during the playoffs, Binnington went 16-10 with a .914 SV% and 2.46 GAA.
We all know how incredible Binnington was for the Blues in the 2018-19 season; the Blues do not hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup without him. But there are two games especially during that 2019 playoff run where Binnington’s play truly defied the odds. Those would be both Game 7’s Binnington and the Blues played in. The first was the Blues’ 2-1 double overtime victory over the Dallas Stars to move on to the Western Conference Final and the other of course being in the Stanley Cup Final in a 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins to win their first ever Stanley Cup. In total between the two games, Binnington stopped 61/63 shots, which equals a .968 SV% and a 0.85 GAA.
In both of those Game 7’s, the Blues had to withstand a storm from the opposition’s offense early, as the opposing team outshot the Blues in the first period of both games. In total, Binnington faced 25 first period shots between the Stars and Bruins (13 DAL, 12 BOS) and stopped all but one, as a fluke goal that bounced off the referee and right to Mats Zuccarello’s stick was scored late in the first period of Blues/Stars Game 7. Binnington’s first period save percentage between the two games was .960 and his stonewalling of the opposition led to frustration which helped set the tone for the Blues early in both games.
As a team, the second period led to many issues for that Blues team during the 2018-19 season due to the longer line change. This led to one, several too many men penalties and two, many odd man breaks and goals the other way because the Blues lacked speed compared to most teams. However, that was not the case in either Game 7 in 2019, as the Blues only gave up 12 second period shots on goal between the two game 7’s, which included only allowing one shot to the Stars as the Blues controlled the pace of the entire second period. But while holding a 2-0 lead in the second period in Boston, Binnington did have to withstand another heavy push from the Bruins but did not surrender a goal. Binnington stopped all 12 of the opposition’s shots in the second period where the team had struggled previously.
The third period is where games can be won or lost in what seems like an instant, especially come playoff time. The Blues were in two different situations coming into the third period in both Game 7’s. as they were tied with Dallas 1-1 after two and then led Boston 2-0 after two with the Stanley Cup on the line. But in both instances, Binnington would come up in the clutch. Despite controlling the play for nearly the entire second and third periods, the Blues could not get another puck past Ben Bishop as the game remained tied at one. This meant the little volume of shots Binnington faced, the Blues needed to count on him for saves, which is exactly what he gave them, stopping all three Dallas third period shots.
As for Boston, despite trailing 2-0, the Bruins were controlling the tempo of the game and the Blues were just trying to hold on. Binnington would make save after save, including an acrobatic sprawling save to deny Joakim Nordstrom midway through the third to keep a two-goal lead which has become the hallmark of his playoff performance. The Blues of course would double their lead to make it 4-0 before Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk scored a meaningless goal on a fluttering shot to make it 4-1 with just over two minutes remaining. In total, Binnington stopped 12/13 third period shots (.923 SV%) and came up monumental for the Blues in crunch time. Binnington also stopped all 13 Dallas shots in two overtime periods so if you combine his Game 7 stats in crunch time (3rd period and OT), he stopped 25/26 shots (.961 SV%).
Not only are the aforementioned statistics just incredible, what makes them stand out even further is the high danger chances. According to shot charts from each game on Hockey-Reference.com, 25 of the 63 total shots faced by Binnington in those two Game 7’s were considered high danger chances. He saved all but one high danger chance which was the Zuccarello goal, giving him a .960 SV% on high danger chances; just outstanding. Binnington stopped many of what should have been goals, and when he was actually scored on the two times in those Game 7’s, they were rather unorthodox and fluky kind of plays. Against the Stars, David Perron tried to send the puck around the boards behind the net, hut the puck careened off the official behind the net, then hit the side of the net and bounced to the front of the net. Mats Zuccarello then corralled the puck and buried it for the goal as Binnington had no idea where the puck was. Then against the Bruins, they pulled the goalie down 4-0 with just over two minutes left. Matt Grzelcyk would join the rush late and received a pass and fired a shot from just inside the circle. The puck fluttered and was a knuckleball and Binnington did not get a good look at the shot, and the puck went crossbar and in to put the Bruins on the board. Despite the two goals against, Binnington’s performance in those two Game 7’s was nothing short of immaculate.
This kind of goaltending performance was unprecedented for a rookie goaltender who started the season fourth in the organizational depth chart at goaltender and seven months prior to winning the Stanley Cup, had never even started in an NHL game. Binnington backboned the Blues to a Stanley Cup and his play in Game 7 against Dallas and Boston will forever be etched in the minds of St. Louis Blues fans.