BOSTON (AP) — The resolve Jordan Binnington is showing in the playoffs was forged in Bruins black and gold.
Now it’s being used to try to beat the organization that took him in.
Binnington bounced back from a rough start to the Stanley Cup Final to make 21 saves in the St. Louis Blues’ Game 2 overtime victory that tied the best-of-seven series against Boston at 1-1. The 25-year-old rookie goaltender improved to 6-2 in the playoffs after a loss after being 6-0 in those situations during the regular season.
“Life of a goaltender,” Binnington said. “Just keep moving forward and regroup, just try to be there and give your team a chance to win. I keep that mindset.”
Binnington’s life as a goaltender hasn’t been easy and it included a notable stop in Providence with the Bruins’ American Hockey League affiliate. The NHL’s expansion to Vegas and a type of minor league musical chairs forced St. Louis to share an AHL team and it chose Ville Husso over Binnington for a goalie spot in San Antonio.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong asked other teams if anyone wanted an experienced goaltender in the minors, and Boston’s Don Sweeney and his staff called inquiring about Binnington. Despite better numbers, Binnington played only 28 games to Bruins prospect Zane McIntyre’s 47.
“I certainly understood that the Boston organization was developing their players, not ours,” said Armstrong, who expressed concern the Blues “failed” Binnington by farming him out to Providence. “So his numbers indicated that he maybe could’ve got more games in the net, he didn’t get those. It was difficult for him.”
That difficult stretch helped Binnington get to this point. He won 17 games and had a 2.05 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. He also looks back fondly on his brief time in the Bruins’ organization he’s now trying to keep from winning the Stanley Cup.
“They were nothing but good to me … I’m very fortunate they took me in,” Binnington said. “I was fortunate to develop and grow there.”
Binnington worked with Providence goaltending coach Mike Dunham, a veteran of 11 NHL seasons between the pipes. Binnington, who came out of nowhere this season to become a finalist for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year and get the Blues into the playoffs and on a run, called Dunham a great influence.
“You can learn from a guy who’s played like that and he showed some experience and maybe some pointers,” Binnington said. “It’s a lot of about just giving a goalie confidence, making him feel good because we’re here for a reason and we have our structure down. But you learn as you go and you can take something from everyone.”
Jake Allen and Chad Johnson were forced to step aside for Binnington and the Blues climbed out of last place in the NHL back in January. Now he and the Blues head home with some momentum for Game 3 on Saturday night.
Binnington’s stint with Providence really didn’t teach his former teammates now with the big Bruins much about how to beat him. Perhaps Dunham had some input on Boston shooting and scoring five-hole early in the series, but it’s not like Connor Clifton, Matt Grzelcyk and Danton Heinen have a big book on him.
What it did was prepare them not to be shocked by Binnington’s run this year.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” Clifton said. “He was a really good goalie for us last year. Did I see him bringing his team to the Stanley Cup Final? Maybe not. But great for him.”
Binnington and St. Louis are three victories away from the franchise’s first championship, thanks in large part to the poise he developed in Providence and elsewhere.
“He’s so calm in the net,” Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist said. “He’s responding so well.”
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno