Last season, Elias Pettersson won the Calder Trophy and Jordan Binnington didn’t. Binnington came in second.
Confident past the point of being a good sport, Binnington didn’t like that he lost. He believed he should have won, and he didn’t hide that fact. In fact, in an interview later he said that the results of the vote “left a bad taste” in his mouth.
As a Teammate, Never Disrespect the Guy on Our Team
From my experience coaching and playing in sports, such comments were generally the fodder for bulletin boards. Someone on any team I’ve been on – as a way to support their “offended” teammate and to encourage the kind of fervor that would hype the motivation made sure such comments weren’t ignored when the next meeting between the two teams involved came around.
That the “next” meeting was the first-round playoff series between the Stanley Cup champion Blues and the not-yet-worthy Canucks made it even more special. In truth, I didn’t hear any references to Binnington’s comments last season’s comments from any Canucks player. However, anyone who’s played sports might find it hard to believe those comments didn’t at some point provide motivation among Canucks players.
Really, It Was Team vs. Team
Obviously, any series matches teams first and individuals only secondarily; however, hockey is a game of competition; and, in my experience, personal goals and feelings seldom remain distant from the competition. The player-vs-player aspect is always erupting during any sporting event I’ve been part of.
All this said, my suspicion is that Pettersson, or at least his supportive teammates, wanted to beat Binnington – just because of what he said about their teammate.
And the Winner Is …
If I’m correct that personal competition was part of this Round 1 series, and that the Canucks both wanted to overwhelm Binnington to win the series and also to prove a point, the clear winner was Pettersson and the Canucks. I’m guessing that part of the victory celebration included someone feeling a sense of retribution.
Blues’ coach Craig Berube had to choose which of his goalies to start in Game 6’s do-or-die match against the Canucks. In the end, he rightfully chose Binnington over Jake Allen. Binnington had followed up his 2019 Stanley Cup win with a strong 2019-20 season. He was the Blues’ star responsible for getting them where they were.
Binnington had lost Games 1 and 2 and had played below average since the NHL’s postseason started. His record going into the deciding Game 6 was 0-4 with a goals-against-average of 4.27 and a .862 save percentage.
Things didn’t get better. Binnington fell behind 4-0 in Game 6 and it was basically over for him. Berube’s gamble didn’t pay off, and the 27-year-old goalie wasn’t himself all series.
Binnington Didn’t Play Up to His Own Standards
After leading his Blues to the Stanley Cup last season, Binnington was a disappointment this postseason. His final record was 0-5 with a goals-against-average of 4.72 and a .851 save percentage. His last four games were particularly poor and he gave up 19 goals in those games.
That three of those games were against the Canucks didn’t support his case that he was the better player than Pettersson. The Canucks young star scored two assists (one on the power play) in Friday’s 6-2 series-clinching win and looked stronger each game.
He now has four multiple-point games in his last five and had scored four goals and nine assists (13 points) in the 10 playoff games prior to the second round. Those 13 points tied him at the time for the league lead with Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon.
The Case for Binnington
There’s a good chance this postseason was a fluke and Binnington will again prove himself next season. But, if you’re counting last season’s Calder Trophy as “1 and the outcome of this round-one series as another “1,” the score now stands Pettersson 2 and Binnington 0.
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