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Second Round

Ben Bishop vs. Jordan Binnington

Post-integration play for goalies could decide series between Stars, Blues

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent

Goaltending is an integral part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. To better understand the strengths and weaknesses of each goalie, the 100 most recent goals allowed for each in the regular season and every goal in the playoffs were charted, with the help of Apex Video Analysis and Save Review System from Upper Hand Inc., to see what patterns emerge.

Ben Bishop was named a Vezina Trophy finalist during the Western Conference First Round and continued to play like one of the best goalies in the NHL with a .945 save percentage to help the Dallas Stars eliminate the Nashville Predators in six games. 

Jordan Binnington is a likely Calder Trophy finalist as the top rookie in the NHL after a breakthrough second half and .927 save percentage in the regular season for the St. Louis Blues. It dropped to .908 during their first-round win against the Winnipeg Jets in six games, but the 25-year-old never really seemed rattled.

Bishop and Binnington have plenty in common: Each was drafted by the Blues, each took awhile to arrive as an NHL starter, each handles the puck well, and each had issues with post play this season. 

There are also several stylistic differences that could play a role in deciding the best-of-7 Western Conference Second Round, which starts with Game 1 at St. Louis on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS).

Here is an in-depth look at each goalie's game:

 

Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars

Bishop ended the regular season with an NHL-leading .934 save percentage, including four shutouts in his last seven complete games. Despite missing time late in the season because of a lower-body injury sustained March 15, he picked up where he left off in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Bishop (6-foot-7) plays with more flow than some of his smaller peers and doesn't rely on his size to make saves. His big frame makes post play a challenge, and some of his more active, reactive habits can become a double-edged sword.

 

GOAL TRENDS

Sharp angles: The numbers from the first round aren't nearly as glaring as Binnington, with three of 12 goals coming off plays where post-integration habits were a factor, but it fits a trend for Bishop. Plays from below the bottom of the face-off circles and behind the net that forced him into and off his posts accounted for 18 of the 87 goals (22.9 percent) he allowed in the regular season, including 3.5 percent on shots from below the goal line. In addition to getting beat cleanly over the short-side shoulder from just above the goal line, Bishop got caught using reverse-VH, a sharp-angle technique, on plays as high as the face-off dot, leaning into the post and delaying his movements off it on passing plays

Active stick: Bishop is active with his stick, breaking up plays through his crease and even swinging it well past his posts to disrupt plays below the goal line. He used it effectively against the Predators, but being aware of it, and getting pucks past it, can leave him off balance or extended past his posts on low-high plays, which accounted for 22 (25.3 percent) of the goals he allowed, including five that started with him swinging and missing the stick. 

High glove? Not so much: The highest number on Bishop's regular-season goal chart was high glove, and his mid- and high-glove total of 25 percent was slightly above the average, but that number was deceiving going into the playoffs because it isn't a save percentage. So the total may be a product of the quantity and quality of shots targeted to the glove side, especially since Bishop has long been known for a good glove hand. More telling was that of 19 clean-shot goals, with Bishop set on the shooter, three went in high glove compared to eight on the blocker side, a trend that played out in the first round too.

 

Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues 

Binnington made his first NHL start Jan. 7, almost eight years after being picked in the third round (No. 87) of the 2011 NHL Draft. He had a shutout against the Philadelphia Flyers and never looked back. A balanced, neutral style and a small sample size of 59 goals-against made it difficult to identify obvious tendencies going into the playoffs, but a few trends emerged against the Jets. 

 

GOAL TRENDS

Low-high attacks: Sharp-angle shots and plays from near or below the goal line that forced Binnington to move in and off his posts accounted for seven of the 16 goals (43.8 percent) he allowed against the Jets. That was a significant jump from the regular season, when he allowed one goal from below the goal line and five that involved post-integration plays (8.5 percent). It is a trend worth watching. Though the goal Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien banked in off the side of Binnington's mask from below the goal line in Game 3 jumps out, it was more often side-to-side movement with the puck below the goal line that left Binnington behind on the pass-outs, or low-high plays, that accounted for six goals (37.5 percent) he allowed against the Jets and 20.3 percent of his regular-season goals-against. That was above the 17.4 percent average for the more than 5,500 goals scored during the past three years of this playoff project. 

Working the posts: Binnington can get passive with his back leg while using reverse-VH, a technique in which the goalie drops his lead pad to the ice with the skate against or just inside the post and uses the back skate to drive into a seal and steer movements off the post. Without that back skate engaged properly, it's harder to push up into a short-side shot from a sharp angle and delays exits off the post. Binnington also shifts hard into the post during side-to-side movements, making quick, far-side shots most effective on low-high plays. He will sometimes overlap his posts on sharp-angled net drives off the rush, which makes it tougher to push across to the far post, something that accounted for two wraparound goals in the regular season and a successful drive to the net by Jets center Kevin Hayes in Game 5. 

Well balanced: Binnington doesn't play to extremes, so it's not surprising few numbers jump off the page of his goal chart, zone maps or scoring attributes. He is selectively aggressive, and that continued against the Jets, but Binnington typically starts within the edges of his crease, prioritizing angle even against rush chances with good top-down rotation that keeps him square. His reads as far as when to step out past the top of the crease have been precise, so it hasn't been easy to get him out of position. He can be more aggressive relative to the sides of his crease, however, staying wide on angled rushes and trusting his defense to take away cross-ice plays. That increases the time it takes to get across on pucks that do get through, so it's not surprising lateral plays played a role in 12 of the 16 goals he allowed against Winnipeg.

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