NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the St. Louis Blues.
[Blues 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Behind the Numbers | Fantasy breakdown]
1. How will Jordan Binnington respond to an increased workload?
After entering last season as the fifth-string goalie on the depth chart, Binnington went 24-5-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and five shutouts in 32 regular-season games to help the Blues go from last place in the NHL standings on Jan. 3 to Stanley Cup champions. He took over for Jake Allen, who was 19-17-8 with a 2.83 GAA, .905 save percentage and three shutouts in 46 games (45 starts).
Binnington, a Calder Trophy finalist for NHL rookie of the year, became the first rookie goalie with 16 wins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, starting all 26 games for St. Louis. He was rewarded with a two-year, $8.8 million contract on July 13. The 26-year-old is entering his first full season in the NHL as the No. 1 starter and could play more than 60 games.
"I think he is [capable of a heavy workload] but, we got Jake Allen there; he's a veteran guy that's been around, been a starting goalie," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "We have two good goalies, and going into the offseason, that was a priority, having both our guys come back. I don't think the goalies are going to get overworked. Both of them are going to play and we need both of them to play well."
Video: Top 10 saves of 2018-19: Binnington
2. How will the power play fare?
The Blues power play ranked 10th in the regular season (21.1 percent) but fell to 12th out of 16 teams in the playoffs (16.3 percent). Marc Savard was hired as an assistant coach July 24 and will run the power play; he had 292 power-play points in 13 NHL seasons from 1997-2011.
Vladimir Tarasenko led the Blues with 12 power-play goals last season; David Perron (seven) and Ryan O'Reilly (six) were the other players to score more than five. In the playoffs, Tarasenko had five and the rest of the Blues combined for eight.
3. Will they experience a Stanley Cup hangover?
Following the first championship in their 51-season history, the Blues are coming off a short offseason and will have a target on their back as the defending Stanley Cup winners. This is unchartered territory for everyone except forward Jordan Nolan, the only Blues player who won the Cup previously (2012, 2014 with the Los Angeles Kings).
"It's really important for our guys to move on from the Cup, come into camp refreshed, ready to go and ready for a new challenge," Berube said. "We can't be thinking about last year. We have to get over that. It's a great accomplishment, I don't want our guys to ever forget about it, but at the same time we need to move on from it and we've got to get going."
Video: 31 in 31: St. Louis Blues 2019-20 season preview