Jordan Binnington vs. Connor Hellebuyck
Each goalie's ability to play angles could determine Blues-Jets seriesby Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent
Goaltending is an integral part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. To better understand the strengths and weaknesses of each goaltender, the last 100 goals allowed for each goaltender in the regular season were charted, with the help of Apex Video Analysis and Save Review System from Upper Hand Inc., to see what patterns emerge.
Connor Hellebuyck became the Winnipeg Jets' No. 1 goalie last season and helped them reach the Western Conference Final. Jordan Binnington is hoping to go on a similarly deep run Stanley Cup Playoff run with the St. Louis Blues this season after breaking through as a late bloomer who helped save their season in the second half.
Hellebuyck's style has been broken down extensively over two full NHL seasons and last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs, Binnington's strengths and potential weaknesses are relative unknowns, which could help the Blues early in the Western Conference First Round. The best-of-7 series begins with Game 1 at Winnipeg on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS3, FS-MW).
Here is an in-depth look at each goalie's game:
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues
Binnington made his NHL start Jan. 7, almost eight years after the Blues picked him in the third round (No. 87) of the 2011 NHL Draft. He shut out the Philadelphia Flyers 3-0 that day and never looked back. The unflappable 25-year-old finished 24-5-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average in 32 games (30 starts), setting the Blues record for wins by a rookie, and had a .927 save percentage that ranked fourth in the NHL among goalies who made at least 25 starts. With only 59 goals-against to break down and a balanced, neutral style, there aren't a lot of obvious tendencies to target, which is reminiscent of Matt Murray's first run to the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016. If Binnington follows suit, he won't mind the increased scrutiny that comes with it.
Balanced approach: Binnington doesn't play to extremes, so perhaps it's not surprising there aren't many numbers that jump off the page of his goal chart, zone map or scoring attributes. His glove-side totals are slightly higher than on the blocker side from bottom to top, but that could simply be a result of shot volume and quality from one side to the other. Binnington is willing to step outside his crease but typically starts within its edges, prioritizing angle even against rush chances, with good top-down rotation in his movements that keeps him square. It's not until he reads an open shot that Binnington takes extra ice beyond the crease, and those reads have been patient and precise. Outside of trying to catch him taking that step by making an extra pass as he moves, it won't be easy to get him out of position.
Against the grain: Binnington allowed 13 goals (22 percent) on plays or shots that caught him moving the wrong way, one of the few attributes above the tracked average (16.9 percent), and six involved deflections. He tends to push into point shots, which is a better habit than reaching or opening up, but this can leave him vulnerable to tips and rebounds.
Post play: Binnington gave up one goal from below the goal line, but there were five that involved sharp-angle plays and post integration. The first goal that went in on him this season was a short-side shot from a bad angle while he was using the reverse-VH technique against the post, but two others came on wraparounds, including one on a rush when he was using an overlap technique, squaring up with a skate outside the post in a traditional butterfly setup. It left him late to get across when the player took the puck behind the net instead.
Show high, shoot low: Binnington shows great patience tracking open releases and doesn't default down to the butterfly prematurely. His seven five-hole goals (11.9 percent) are slightly better than the tracked average (12.1), but there were a couple on open looks where he seemed to be anticipating high shots and was late to the ice, so it will be interesting to see if the Jets' skilled forwards try to look him off and deliver quick, low shots early in the series.
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Hellebuyck was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, when he had 44 wins, a 2.36 GAA and .924 save percentage in 67 games (64 starts) after rebuilding his body in the summer and continuing to update parts of his technical game with Winnipeg goaltending coach Wade Flaherty. His numbers were down this season -- 34 wins, 2.90 GAA, .913 save percentage in 64 games (62 starts) -- with the Jets playing looser defensively; they allowed 2.96 goals per game after giving up 2.63 last season.
High glove: One of Hellebuyck's biggest changes last season was his glove position; he previously held it unusually low, leaving him overly reliant on his elbow to make high saves. It seemed to work, with Hellebuyck near the tracked NHL average at 25 percent on mid- and high-glove goals last season, but this season he was up to 34 percent. That includes 10 of 26 clean-shot goals, when he had time to get set and square on the shooters, but there were also 15 high-glove goals that included a combination of three or four scoring attributes (such as a low-high, cross-ice pass for an against-the-grain one-timer). So though goal totals aren't enough to make any definitive conclusions about Hellebuyck's glove because they don't include shot quality or a save percentage, it will be interesting to see if the Blues target this area.
Make him move: With a big frame (6-foot-4, 207 pounds) and tight game, Hellebuyck is tough to beat in straight lines, even though he plays at a conservative depth in the crease, making it important to create lateral attacks that get him moving side to side. Lateral plays factored into 51 percent of the goals on Hellebuyck last season, 70 percent in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and 60 percent this season. In tight, a tendency to reach with the pads rather than shift can still result in Hellebuyck getting stretched out on plays across the crease, but for the most part he forces you to beat him with good shots around the edges, rather than opening holes and beating himself.
Bad angles better: Hellebuyck added reverse VH, a technique in which he drops the short-side pad to the ice to seal the post on sharp-angle attacks, over the past two seasons but isn't afraid to mix it up with other approaches. It appears to have paid off, with the bad-angle goals down from eight last season to three this season, when he allowed none from below the goal line.
Low blocker side: A tendency to turn and pull up slightly on the blocker side makes low shots more effective than high on this side and contributes to more pucks getting under that arm.