FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Stars have not been surprised by the standout play of St. Louis Blues rookie goalie Jordan Binnington, who they will face in Game 1 of the best-of-7 Western Conference Second Round at Enterprise Center on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS).
"I actually trained with him the last three or four summers (in Toronto)," Stars center Tyler Seguin said. "He was always good, but I even said to him at the end of last summer, 'Your game looks different.' He was saving everything. Now he's learning it at the NHL level, and he's an incredible goalie. We've got a challenge ahead of us."
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The 25-year-old, recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Dec. 9, made his NHL debut Dec. 16 in relief of Jake Allen and the first of 30 starts Jan. 7. His performance coincided with the Blues going from having the worst record in the League on Jan. 2 to finishing in third place in the Central Division.
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He finished the season 24-5-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average, best in the NHL among goalies with at least 30 starts, and a .927 save percentage, which was third.
Dallas goalie Ben Bishop was second to Binnington with a 1.98 goals-against average, the best of his 10-season NHL career, in 46 games (45 starts).
Binnington was 1-2-0 with a 2.76 GAA and .879 save percentage in three games against Dallas. He defeated the Stars 3-1 on Jan. 12 in his third NHL start but allowed seven goals in two subsequent losses. The four goals he allowed in a 5-2 loss at American Airlines Center on Feb. 21 equaled the most goals he allowed in any NHL regular-season game.
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"He could steal games," said Stars center Jason Dickinson, who played against Binnington in junior hockey and the American Hockey League. "Now he's playing at his best all the time. He's found that confidence and that consistency.
"You see it in his [media] interview. Somebody asked him if he gets nervous. He jokingly said, 'Do I look nervous?'"
Dallas center Justin Dowling, who faced Binnington durings parts of five AHL seasons, said, "You notice how much he competes on the ice and his will and his drive. That makes it hard because they're never out of a play. You'll have back-door passes or you have tic-tac-toe plays that you think are going in. Some [goalie] is going to ease up, it's going to be a tap-in goal. Then all of a sudden he comes out of nowhere and makes a save. And I've seen a couple saves like that since he's been called up."
Stars coach Jim Montgomery said getting in front of the St. Louis net will be a priority.
"Binnington's been superb for them, but the people in front of him make his job real easy," Montgomery said. "We can't allow those guys to break our offensive forwards, especially getting to the net front."
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