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ST. LOUIS — The large media scrum Jordan Binnington faced on Monday afternoon looked a lot like his crease on Sunday night — crowded with plenty of unfamiliar faces.
And for the first time in these playoffs, and indeed in his NHL career, the rookie goaltender with the St. Louis Blues is under a bit of a spotlight to see how he bounces back from a tough outing.
Binnington was beat six times on 29 shots by the Winnipeg Jets as they got right back into the best-of-seven playoff series with a 6-3 victory in Game 3. Binnington still made his share of highlight-reel saves but also let in a couple questionable ones, including a Dustin Byfuglien bank shot off his mask.
“They came out hard and I think we weathered the storm a bit in the first period, but they kept coming. Sometimes it’s not going to go your way. It’s how you handle things in life and in the game of hockey. I’m just going to prepare for the next game (Tuesday 8:30 p.m.),” Binnington told reporters following his team’s optional practice at Enterprise Center.
“It’s about having a short memory and doing what makes you feel good for the next game. I think that’s what we focus on as a team and just believing in ourselves and trying to be as consistent as we can by preparing properly, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Jets made a concerted effort to get in Binnington’s grill, which was evident when Byfuglien appeared to try to grab his mask during a post-whistle skirmish.
“They’re coming to the net hard and we’re going to their net hard, too. It’s playoff hockey and it’s going to be physical. You have to be prepared for anything. Nothing changes. We’re just going to keep focusing on the next game,” sad Binnington.
“Life of a goalie. Sometimes stuff happens. Just believe in yourself and stick to what you know and prepare for the next game,” said Binnington. “We believe in ourselves and all year we’ve been a consistent hockey team. We’ve handled adversity well and hopefully we’re going to do the same thing.”
The numbers would appear to be on his side. Binnington was between the pipes for just six losses during the regular season, and his record following those defeats is truly impressive: 6-0-0 with a 1.79 goals-against-average and .935 save-percentage.
“We’re confident. He’s strong mentally. He’s a strong kid and he’s gonna bounce back,” said Blues interim head coach Craig Berube.
Binnington has also seen plenty of Jets winger Patrik Laine, who has scored a goal in all three games.
“It’s an elite league and there are some elite players. Anyone can shoot the puck and obviously there are some guys who have extra skill and timing to put it home. He’s one of those guys for sure,” said Binnington.
Blues defenceman Colton Parayko said the group has no worries about Binnington, who was a major reason the team went from the basement of the NHL standings to a Stanley Cup contender in just a few short months. The move uop the standings coincided with Binnington’s promotion from the AHL.
“The cool part is just the way he goes about it, just the way that he continues to press. He’s an elite goaltender back there and we have all the confidence in him,” said Parayko.
“I think it’s one of those things where he knows where he’s at and he knows how good he is. Obviously we all know how good he is in the locker room, too. So, I mean, he’s a professional. He knows exactly what he needs to do. He’s ready. We’re ready and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Blues expected the best from the Jets in Game 3, and will now focus on trying to do the same in return in Game 4.
“I just think getting back to our structure. We knew they were going to come hard and they did. They played a really good game and obviously we’ve got to make sure that we come prepared next game, keep our focus and just take care of home ice,” said Parayko.
“Playoffs is one of those times where you’ve just to make sure you’re even-keeled. If you look at the series, we’re still up one (game), which is nice. We expect another hard game from them, same as last game from them if not harder. Obviously they want to go home tied and we want to go up two going there (to Winnipeg for Game 5). So it’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be fun. It’s playoff hockey.”
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.