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Stanley Cup Final

Binnington not solely to blame in Game 3 of Cup Final, McKenna says

Blues goalie victim of poor team play; Rask excels for Bruins in win

by Mike McKenna / Special to NHL.com

Mike McKenna has been a professional goalie for the past 14 seasons and has played for seven NHL teams and 13 minor-league teams. Most recently he played in the Philadelphia Flyers organization, playing one NHL game with them this season. He also played 10 games with the Ottawa Senators in 2018-19.  

He knows about the most important position in the playoffs and a lot about the men who play it and those trying to score goals against them. So NHL.com asked him to share his insights during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In his most recent column, McKenna breaks down the play of goalies Tuukka Rask and Jordan Binnington in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, a 7-2 victory for the Boston Bruins against the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center on Saturday, which gave Boston a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. 

 

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

 

It's hard to fathom that it took more than 50 starts in the NHL for Jordan Binnington to get the hook. 

That's an astounding number, but for a goaltender, it's a matter of time before it happens.

It is also most unfortunate that he was not able to finish the first Stanley Cup Final game in St. Louis in 49 years, especially for Blues fans who had Enterprise Center rocking at the start of Game 3. 

But was Binnington to blame? Was his game so far off that he needed to be replaced by Jake Allen after allowing a power-play goal to defenseman Torey Krug at 12:12 of the second period?

Video: BOS@STL,Gm3: Krug nets Bruins' third PPG

I don't think so. 

Binnington allowed five goals on 19 shots, but three of the five were deflected. Another was on a 2-on-1 break and forward David Pastrnak scored the other when he was left alone in front of the net with enough time to phone in a take-out order. Three of the five goals came on Bruins' power plays.

Sure, a few of the goals allowed didn't look good. Sean Kuraly's quick five-hole goal with 10 seconds remaining in the first period to make it 3-0 immediately comes to mind, but a few things happened that made it a much tougher opportunity than it appeared. Binnington was screened by his own defenseman, and the puck was deflected off the shin pad of Alex Pietrangelo. How do you contend with that as a goalie? The only way Binnington makes the save is if he somehow manages to see the puck released from the stick blade through traffic, which wouldn't have been easy with several bodies crossing in the high slot.

Video: BOS@STL, Gm3: Kuraly beats Binnington with quick shot

But the real culprit was the timing of the goal. Going down by two goals in the first period is difficult but manageable, down three much less so. When the second and third goals happen as quickly as they did in Game 3 -- 2:10 apart -- it can suck the life right out of a team.

It's doubtful Binnington was pulled solely because of his play. Rather, coach Craig Berube was showing mercy on the man that has provided his team with so much confidence since early January, when he made his first NHL start. 

Simply not worth it to leave your starting goalie out there getting beat up, and a professional like Binnington knows and accepts his coach's reasoning for the hook.

What really stood out to me about Game 3 was the play of Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. In Games 1 and 2, he seemed to look somewhat uninspired at times, but Game 3 was a different story. 
Rask made several big saves in the first period by telescoping out to gain depth, tracking the puck well, and shifting into shots. Each goal against involved a circus-like deflection. 

Amazingly, in such a lopsided game, at least in the goal column, the Blues had far more scoring chances in my opinion.

During blowouts, we sometimes forget how good the winning goalie may have played. 

Imagine how different the complexion of the game would have been if he'd allowed a goal or two early. It seems like he's knocked off whatever rust may have been oxidizing after a 10-day layoff between the end of the Eastern Conference Final and the start of the Stanley Cup Final.

While this game ended with a five-goal victory for the Bruins, which provided all manner of convenient storylines, Binnington will regain the net for Game 4 like nothing ever happened. For someone who's had to fight as hard as Binnington to make the NHL, you can be assured the ups and downs of his career have galvanized his mental resolve.

Video: Bruins exploit, chase Binnington for first time

I found it interesting that Rask didn't participate in the optional morning skate the Bruins held before Game 3. Binnington, meanwhile, went out with the rest of his team for some work on Saturday. 

There is no doubt the Bruins -- thanks to the excellent play of Jaroslav Halak -- have done a fantastic job of managing Rask's work load this season. The 46 games he played, his lowest total in six seasons, gave him the opportunity to find breaks to develop a clear mental space he can tap into when needed now during the long postseason grind.

With Rask trending upward, and Binnington looking to rebound, the table is set for a very interesting Game 4 here on Monday.

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