He’s played in fewer than 50 NHL games, but St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington has already become famous for his unflappability. His call-up from the AHL and run as the starter beginning in January was the spark that completely turned the Blues’ awful season around. The 25-year-old was magic for St. Louis, and in late February, when a reporter asked Binnington if all the important hockey he suddenly found himself in was nerve-wracking, his immediate cold-blooded response of, “Do I look nervous?” defined his power. That answer got so stuck in everybody’s head that Winnipeg fans even chanted, “You look nervous!” at Binnington in their first-round Game 5 against the Blues. St. Louis won that series in six.
But, finally, in the Stars’ 4-2 win against the Blues on Wednesday night that evened their series at two games apiece, Binnington lost his composure, taking a pair of stupid penalties out of frustration at the end of the second period. Binnington’s penalties didn’t sway the outcome of the game—the Stars had scored all four of their goals already—but his opponents must be thrilled that some cracks are finally showing in his cool exterior.
As the buzzer sounded to end the second with a 4-1 Dallas lead, Binnington, after Jamie Benn poked at him with his stick, decided he was going to try to send a message to the Stars captain by going far out of his way to shove him. It was dumb, especially because he got caught and penalized for roughing, which negated Benn’s unsportsmanlike conduct two minutes.
But that’s not where it ended. As Binnington skated off the ice, he got in an attack on his opposing goalie, Ben Bishop. The Blues’ netminder picked up a second penalty for slashing, whacking Bishop with his stick in a hit-and-run as he went to the locker room.
After the game, Binnington didn’t have any kind of snappy or interesting explanation for what he did.
“Sometimes, things aren’t going to go your way,’’ he said. “It’s playoff hockey. Stuff happens. You try to change the game up a little bit.’’
Binnington’s coach, Craig Berube, even defended his goaltender, saying, “He’s competitive. I don’t know what Jamie Benn is doing, skating down there and getting in Binner’s face. He’s just reacting.”
But Benn summed it up best in the postgame, describing the tiff as “a bunch of grown men being donkeys.”
The whole game had this kind of tension, with a Bishop flop on a love tap from David Perron also serving up some controversy. But it’s the Stars who seem to hold the psychological advantage as the series moves back to St. Louis all tied up. The Blues were nothing before Binnington showed up, and while it’s hard to say he’s been truly dominant in the postseason, he’s given his team a chance in nearly every game so far. His focus and his confidence have been his superpowers, but now that the Stars know they’ve broken the young goaltender once, they have to be excited to try and do it again in Game 5.