ST. LOUIS - After becoming the first rookie goaltender to win all 16 games for his team en route to a Stanley Cup in 2019, Jordan Binnington had a much different experience in the Return to Play format in 2020.
Binnington started three games of the Blues' first-round series against the Vancouver Canucks but was unable to help his team score a victory in any of them. It appeared to be the first time he wasn't having success since arriving on the scene in January 2019.
"I've struggled before. It took me a long time to get where I'm at," Binnington said when speaking to reporters over a Zoom conference call on Tuesday. "To stay at the top is tough. You have to stay on top of yourself. For me, everything I do is a learning experience. You just go through it, reflect and understand what makes you feel good and what didn't work out for you. You keep moving. You live and learn and you grow. That's my outlook."
Binnington's best performance since hockey resumed was on Aug. 2 in a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the round-robin. He turned aside 35 of 37 shots before Nazim Kadri scored the game-winner in the final second of regulation.
"Our goaltending, even during this tournament where I think their stats weren't as good, they were solid," Blues forward Alexander Steen said. "There were a couple games in the round robin where 'Binner' was the best he's played."
Video: Binnington reflects on 2020 playoffs, regular season
"I felt good the first couple of games, competing hard," Binnington said. "We weren't getting the outcomes but we were working, trying to find our game. It just wasn't ideal. We win together, we lose together. We won together last year. It didn't go our way this year for me personally. I know how good I am and how good I can be. I expect better of myself. Sometimes it's not going to go your way but you've got to get back on your horse, keep working and find your way."
Binnington said he the playoffs were much different - and not necessarily in a good way - without fans in attendance.
"We missed the fans, we missed the atmosphere," he said. "That energy is exciting and makes it more fun to play. It was a different experience, something we had to do. All the players came together, we worked hard, we did our best. (The League) did a good job putting together what they can. It was different, but we missed the atmosphere, for sure."
Despite the first-round exit in 2020, the Blues goaltender believes the team will be back to compete for the Stanley Cup again.
"I think we've got a great core, a lot of good young guys," Binnington said. "They've done a good job putting this team together. It's a really selfless group and that's important. We obviously know how to win… It was a weird tournament, it is what it is. Going forward, I think we have a bitter taste in our mouth. We know we're better, we know how good we are. We know how hard it is to win in this League. I'd [argue] it's the hardest trophy to win in sports and we've done it. Experience goes a long way. I think we'll be alright."