In practice, St. Louis Blues goalies Jordan Binnington and Joel Hofer made a habit of passing back and forth to improve their puck handling.

"It's fun," Hofer said. "Obviously in practice, everybody's trying to get better. That's just something we like to practice a bit is just shooting pucks back and forth. Just little things to keep it loose and something to get better at."

It's just one part of the mentor-mentee relationship between the two netminders. Hofer, 23, just finished his first full NHL season, while Binnington, 30, made his first start in 2019. At the time, Binnington was learning from longtime Blue Jake Allen. Now it's his turn to take Hofer under his wing.

"He's amazing," Hofer said about Binnington. "It really is amazing to watch him every night. The average person, when they watch him, they don't really see the little things he does, but as a goalie, I can see those little things, and he makes it look really easy. So yeah, he's great and I had a lot of fun working with him."

Hofer led all rookies in save percentage (.914) and recorded 15 wins. His play let interim coach Drew Bannister rest Binnington when needed while still keeping the Blues competitive game in and game out. Bannister, who coached Hofer in Springfield, was especially proud of what he saw.

"What an outstanding person and outstanding competitor," he said, "and for a young goalie, I'm really proud of the way he's come in. Him and Binner worked extremely well together."

Binnington, who also had great things to say, said he's gotten to learn from Hofer as well.

"He's getting me playing with the puck more in practice," Binnington said. "I learn a little bit from him too, just watching him play on a day-to-day basis. You can take stuff from everywhere, so it was fun being partners with him this year."

Binnington had a bounceback season in his own right. After setting career lows in save percentage (.894) and goals-against average (3.31) in 2022-23, he rebounded with his best numbers since his rookie year. He also had 28 wins, two shy of his career high.

"I felt I was present throughout," he said. "I checked in pretty often that I was putting my best foot forward every day, so I feel good about that. Definitely some evolutions and growth, so lots of things to take away, and more experience."

The Blues have certainly benefitted from their goaltending. The consensus around the Blues locker room is the Hofer-Binnington duo is among the NHL's best and gives them a chance to win every night.

"You need really good goaltending in this league to win or even compete," Robert Thomas said. "We've got two guys that, quite frankly, are probably up there for the top tandem in the league. That's what you need, and that's what we have. You're never going to be a bad team when you have two goalies like that."

The numbers back that up, too. Binnington and Hofer were Nos. 5 and 15 in goals saved above expected, respectively (minimum 20 games played). Only four other teams had two goalies in the top 15: the Winnipeg Jets, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings.

As the Blues continue to build, both Binnington and Hofer have proven they're among the league's best and are key pieces for the future.

"Certainly, all teams have to lean on their goalies at times," Bannister said, "and I have no question that these two moving forward are going to be a big part of this team's success."