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Coaches Room

Blues, Binnington have what it takes for deep playoff run

Marcoux says coach's approach, goalie's puck-handling skills can carry St. Louis through second round

by David Marcoux / Special to

The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by one of four former NHL coaches and assistants who will turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher. David Marcoux, Paul MacLean, Don Nachbaur and Gord Murphy will take turns providing insight.

In this edition, Marcoux, former goalie coach for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Calgary Flames, discusses why the St. Louis Blues were able to defeat the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference First Round and why they have a good chance of winning the next round.

When the St. Louis Blues begin the Western Conference Second Round sometime this week, they will carry with them a strong team concept and the conviction that they are capable of great accomplishments.

The Blues eliminated the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the first round, winning Games 1, 2, and 5 on the road, and Game 6 at home Saturday.

Video: Blues oust Jets in six games, advance to Second Round

To be successful in the second round, against either the Nashville Predators or Dallas Stars, the Blues will need a continued high level of communication because they will be dealing with a strong skating team and playing in very loud road buildings that can lead to confusion.

The Stars have a 3-2 lead against the Predators in their best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series, with Game 6 at American Airline Center on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN1, TVAS2, FS-SW, FS-TN).

Like all teams playing in the postseason, getting bodies and pucks to the net also is key, and the Blues did a good job of that in their series against Winnipeg, with forwards Ryan O'Reilly, Brayden Schenn and Patrick Maroon owning the net front for their respective lines. Combined with the accurate shooting of Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, it created a lethal offensive combination, with Schwartz scoring four goals in the final two games, including a hat trick in Game 6.

If they can keep it up against the Stars or Predators they will have a great chance to reach the Western Conference Final.

Perhaps the biggest reason the Blues have a strong chance to move on is rookie goalie Jordan Binnington, who not only has been hard to beat but has shown the ability to handle the puck and communicate with his defensemen, which is key when it comes to breakouts, especially on the road.

Binnington has been the one of the biggest stories in the NHL this season, and the 25-year-old very well could become the biggest story of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: Binnington makes 29 saves to help Blues stun Jets

He was called up from San Antonio of American Hockey League on Dec. 9, made his NHL debut Dec. 16 and went 24-5-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage in 32 games to help the Blues go from last in the NHL standings Jan. 3 to a playoff berth. He went 4-2 with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in six games in the first round against the Jets and seems to have a calmness about him.

By correctly reading the rush play coming at him, Binnington has shown a strong positional depth and challenges shooters. In watching him against Winnipeg, his feet were set when shots were being taken, showing that he is confident and not overthinking.

From a puck-handling standpoint, it's obvious the Blues have a strong system in place. Against the Jets, Binnington was excellent at starting the transition by using little fakes and sharp, accurate passes. This is a great skill that I did not know he had. He surely worked on this during his time in the AHL.

Another thing that impressed me about the Blues was how they have decided to do it coach Craig Berube's way.

Once he took over for Mike Yeo as coach Nov. 19, Berube pushed different buttons with different players. The players have been held accountable by Berube and are more committed to the team concept than they were previously.

I also believe Berube and the Blues are under a different level of pressure than some of the top teams in these playoffs.

Nobody was looking at the Blues as a contender early in the season, but Berube got the players to believe in themselves and focus on the process. He seems like a very honest and direct coach and the players clearly have bought in to what he is preaching and are having fun.

All of that will have to be working right for the Blues in the second round because a heavy series awaits them. But the way they won the first round is a good sign and teams cannot take the Blues lightly.


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