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Stanley Cup Final

Binnington made stop with Bruins organization on road to Final with Blues

Goalie credits time in AHL for improving game, set to face Boston for championship

by Matt Kalman / NHL.com Correspondent

BOSTON -- Jordan Binnington will start for the St. Louis Blues against the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, CBC, TVAS), which is remarkable when you consider the 25-year-old goalie didn't make his NHL debut until Dec. 16.

But another aspect of Binnington's story is that last season he played for the Bruins' American Hockey League affiliate in Providence.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Blues series coverage]

 

At the start of last season, the Blues were sharing their AHL affiliate in San Antonio with the Colorado Avalanche. That meant the Blues could only place one goalie there, and that was Ville Husso.

Blues pro scout and San Antonio general manager Kevin McDonald and Bruins director of player personnel/Providence GM John Ferguson Jr. agreed to let Binnington, St. Louis' third-round pick (No. 88) in the 2011 NHL Draft, play in Providence and share time with Boston prospect Zane McIntyre. 

The Bruins had just lost goalie Malcolm Subban on waivers to the Vegas Golden Knights. So Binnington, though property of the Blues, played for the Bruins affiliate. 

"I remember he was a good goalie," Bruins forward Danton Heinen said Wednesday, one day after Boston learned it will play St. Louis in the Stanley Cup Final. "From the few times that I practiced with him down there, I remember him being solid, tough to score on in practice, and he was a good guy." 

Video: Binnington joins an elite group of NHL goaltenders

Binnington has been more than a good goalie this season. He led the NHL in goals-against average (1.89) and had a .927 save percentage during the regular season and is a finalist for the Calder Trophy, awarded annually to the top rookie in the NHL. He has a 2.36 GAA and .914 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, helping St. Louis reach the Final for the first time since 1970.

"Yeah, I was very fortunate for them to take me in," Binnington said. "I got some experience, and it's a great organization over there. Lots of good players, good city, so I was very fortunate to get an opportunity to play last year and get some experience under my belt and take into this year."

Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton, who was with Providence all of last season, said even though Binnington wasn't Boston property, he fit right in.

"He was a teammate," Clifton said. "You kind of treat all your teammates the same, with respect, like a family. You know how it is."

Video: Jordan Binnington is beyond excited after Game 6

Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was in Providence for 14 games at the start of the season and didn't notice anything different about having a goalie from another organization in the locker room or on the ice.

"I think it was still kind of early, in the first month and a half or so, so it was kind of more about the process," Grzelcyk said. "But I think he fit right in right away and it wasn't really a topic that came up because he was playing really well, so it was kind of welcome to have him."

Binnington was 17-9-0 with a 2.05 GAA and .926 save percentage in 28 games for Providence. During his stay, the Blues sent their development coach Dave Rogalski, who's also a goalie coach, to work with Binnington a couple times. Binnington also worked closely with Boston goaltender development coach Mike Dunham.

Video: SJS@STL, Gm6: Binnington stones Kane with strong save

Dunham said he didn't work too much with Binnington on technique, but they focused more on his confidence and other mental parts of the game, and he had high praise for how Binnington handled the situation.

"Jordan came in and got comfortable with the teammates quickly, and I think that helped a lot," Dunham said. "He just came out and he worked hard every day. He came out, he did what we asked of him. He did all the goalie drills, he worked hard. There were a lot of weekends where he played just Saturday games. He got his game and he went in there and did the best that he could do. He put up really good numbers for us last year."

Those numbers have continued with St. Louis.

"I respect his (perseverance) a lot," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Where he's come out of junior and things like that, I'm sure that he thought he'd be right in there maybe a lot quicker than he had or I'm sure the organization thought the same thing, but it doesn't always work out that way. He's not the only one. There's been lots of players like that over the years, but it's on him. He stayed with it, worked hard and he got an opportunity this year and he's making the best of it. It's nice to see. Happy for him."

Heinen doesn't think the little bit of experience some Bruins had facing Binnington in practice will make much of a difference.

"I don't know, I don't think so," Heinen said. "I think it's all situational, every game's different, but yeah, he's a good goalie and we're going to have to do what we can to beat him."

But Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is always looking for any edge. So he hopes Bruins goaltending coach Bob Essensa, who is responsible for scouting the opposing goalies, can use anything he gleaned from last season in Providence, or from talking to Dunham, to aid Boston's cause.

"Well I'd like to think it would help," Cassidy said. "Goalie Bob knows him, he was down in Providence, so there's a little extra there. I don't think it will affect Binnington much. He's playing well, I'm sure he's going to be on this game, play the way he plays, even though it might be a little more inside information that we would have than maybe a San Jose did. But at the end of the day, it can't hurt, right, to have a little experience with him on some little details."

NHL.com correspondent Louie Korac contributed to this report

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