- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
St. Louis Blues center Brayden Schenn didn’t want to talk about Nazem Kadri.
He didn’t want to talk about Blues goalie Jordan Binnington’s collision with the Colorado Avalanche center that forced him out of Saturday’s Game 3, and eventually the entire series, with a lower-body injury. About the conjecture that followed the incident regarding Kadri’s alleged intent in driving the net, with coach Craig Berube referencing “Kadri’s reputation” in assessing the incident.
“We’re here to win the series. That’s what it boils down to,” said Schenn, whose team lost Game 3 and now trails the Avalanche 2-1 in their Stanley Cup playoffs second-round series. “You don’t focus on just him. Going out there and winning a hockey game, that’s all you can really control.”
Kadri wasn’t penalized by the on-ice officials or by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for Binnington’s injury. But it’s hard to bury those emotions, given what happened to Binnington and given Kadri’s history with the Blues — having been suspended eight games last postseason for a hit to the head that took out defenseman Justin Faulk.
Schenn didn’t want to talk about it, but he couldn’t help himself when asked about how Kadri defended his actions. “He said he got pushed in. [But] he’s behind our guy. So I don’t know how that makes sense,” he said. “But we’ll move on.”
Moving on means channeling those emotions the right way for Game 4 on Monday night in St. Louis.
“It’s a tough loss. We’re not going to sugarcoat,” defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said. “But we’re not going to misplace our energy here. We’re trying to win the series.”
Processing emotions is what the Blues did better than any other team during their 2019 Stanley Cup championship win. Their uncanny ability to move beyond adversity defined that run. Devastating losses were quickly followed by victories. Calamitous moments — like an undetected hand pass that led to a Western Conference finals loss to San Jose — were processed, dealt with and deleted from their memory banks.
Binnington’s injury is a critical loss for the Blues. He was 4-1 with a .949 save percentage and a 1.72 goals-against average in six appearances. He was second among goalies still involved in the postseason in goals saved above expectation per 60 minutes (0.934). His 51 saves in Game 1 forced overtime. His 30 saves in Game 2 denied the Avalanche in the Blues’ 4-1 win. He was the foundation for what they were building in this series.
“Binner’s the heart and soul. Playing unbelievable,” said captain Ryan O’Reilly after Game 3. “I think [his injury] took the momentum away and it took us too long to get it back. Things like that happen. We’re a deep team.”
That depth includes the crease, where the Blues will turn back to a familiar face to salvage the series against Colorado: goalie Ville Husso, who replaced Binnington in Game 3 and gave up four goals on 23 shots in the 5-2 defeat.
“We’re more than confident in both of them. That’s the beauty with those two. Two great goalies, keep us in every single game,” said defenseman Colton Parayko.
Husso pitched a shutout in his first playoff start against the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of their first-round series, stopping 37 shots. But he had an .848 save percentage in back-to-back losses to the Wild before Binnington replaced him in Game 4. His expected save percentage in the first three games was .872. The Blues noticeably tightened up defensively when Binnington took over.
“We’ve used both goalies all year. We used [both of] them in the playoffs already. And now Ville’s gotta go back in,” said Berube. “He’s got the ability to do a real good job for us.”
Husso and Binnington have been jockeying for the Blues’ crease for years. When Binnington, 28, ascended to the NHL in 2018-19 and led the Blues to the Stanley Cup, many had expected Husso, 27, would have been the one to become the team’s franchise goalie. In 2021-22, Husso finally took the crease, going 25-7-6 in 40 games with a .919 save percentage and earning the start in Game 1 of the playoffs.
It’s been a roller coaster for Husso, and Game 3 was the latest dip: He had minus-2.22 goals saved below average in the Game 3 relief effort loss.
Where is his confidence after losing his starting job, coming back and struggling?
“I don’t need to say a lot to him. He’s ready to go. He’s become a better goalie over the course of the season. We started with him in the playoffs,” said Berube. “An athlete is a competitive person. He’s getting another chance to get back in there and help the team win. That’s how you look at it. That’s why they’re professional athletes.”
In other words, professional athletes move on from adversity and focus on the task at hand. It’s what Husso must do with his recent struggles. It’s what the Blues must do with their emotional response to the events that put Husso back in their crease.
The Blues have other improvements to make following their Game 3 loss. They didn’t control play like they did in Game 2, and certainly didn’t challenge the Colorado defense enough after the Avalanche lost Samuel Girard to an injury in the first period. But it was still a one-goal game in the third period before a pair of late Colorado goals — one an empty-net goal, and one where Husso scrambled back to the net after being called off (to no avail) — made the final score look more lopsided than the game actually was.
“We’ve played well in the series,” said Berube. “We’re right there. It’s a shot away,”
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