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All-Star Game

Binnington proving rookie season with Blues was no fluke

Goalie set to play in All-Star Game at home after winning Stanley Cup in 2019

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

ST. LOUIS -- One of Jordan Binnington's goals this season was to represent the St. Louis Blues at the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game.

He knew the game would be at Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Jan. 25 (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS). He also knew what some wondered after last season, when he came up from the minors, helped the Blues go from last in the NHL to the Stanley Cup and finished second in the voting for the Calder Trophy.

Could he sustain his success?

"I wanted to make the All-Star Game," he said. "I had it on my list, and I wanted to earn it."

Binnington can check the box. The goalie will appear in front of the home fans with coach Craig Berube, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and forwards Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron. He has 22 wins, tied for second in the NHL with Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs (one behind Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning), with a 2.51 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and one shutout.

Asked if making the All-Star Game was validation, he said: "Yeah. Obviously, you know, stuff …"

His voice trailed off for a second.

"Stuff is said, and you just can't listen to it," he continued. "You've got to just kind of focus on yourself and prepare the best way you can, and just trying to be the best goaltender I can be with my time here. It's been successful so far."

Blues forward Brayden Schenn was less diplomatic.

"People probably thought it was a fluke," Schenn said. "But he took off right where he was last year, and he's just calm in the net. He's been unbelievable for us this year."

Binnington might seem like an overnight sensation. He made his first NHL start Jan. 7, 2019, and went 24-5-1 with a 1.89 GAA, a .927 save percentage and five shutouts in the regular season, and 16-10 with a 2.46 GAA, a .914 save percentage and one shutout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: Binnington's 1st calendar year as an NHL Player

But he spent 5½ seasons in the minors developing and fighting for his chance. He was 25 when he made his first NHL start. He's 26 now.

"I don't know what I expected, but I wanted to be in the NHL at the age of 20, 21, 22, 23, and it kind of wasn't working out," said Binnington, selected by the Blues in the third round (No. 88) in the 2011 NHL Draft. "It was a good lesson for me to learn experience-wise and understand that it's a privilege. When you get that opportunity, you've got to be ready, and I waited a long time for it."

He wasn't going to take playing in the NHL for granted, even after winning the Stanley Cup.

"I wasn't done," he said. "I had a lot to prove for myself, for my family. I felt like I deserved to be here. It's just I, like I said, had to learn a few things and gain some experience and just figure out more about myself. I think that comes with age."

Berube has seen a change since he coached Binnington with Chicago of the American Hockey League in 2016-17. 

"He was kind of going through some things, but after that year, he became a better goalie," Berube said. "Definitely, there's a chip (on his shoulder), and I believe personally that's a great thing for a person to have."

Binnington has room for more growth. He's still learning the League, from the nuances of each rink to the tendencies of opponents. He's still learning how to manage his body and mind over the course of a full NHL season.

But he has grown perhaps the most important thing already.

"He's got many layers of skin, and I love that part of it," said former NHL goalie Darren Pang, the Blues TV color analyst. "He's been beaten down, and he's not going away. And I said this after 10 games last year. I said, 'This is not a fluke. He's not going away.' The layers of skin are a compliment to what he's been through."

Binnington will enjoy All-Star Weekend.

His grandmother Joanne Binnington will get to see him play in St. Louis for the first time. His mom, stepdad, two sisters and two stepsisters are coming too. Media day will be fun. So will the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills presented by New Amsterdam Vodka.

The game itself, though? He waited too long and worked too hard to take it lightly. Asked if this was a rare chance to relax and take in everything he has accomplished, he showed the same attitude he used to accomplish it.

"Yeah, but we've still got money on the line," he said about the game in which the winning team splits $1 million. "We're going to go for that. Yeah, I think just the media day and the skills competition will be a good time. Be loose. It's break, right? But then, yeah, come game time, we're going to hopefully bring home the dough."

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