What a turnaround it’s been for the St. Louis Blues. On January 1st, the Blues were tied for dead last in the league with the Ottawa Senators. Now, they sit 17th in the league, two points behind Dallas, with a game in hand, for third spot in the Central division. The Blues are riding a 7-game win streak and look like a team to be reckoned with.
Two of the biggest reasons for their recent play has been the emergence of Jordan Binnington and Vladimir Tarasenko finding his goal scoring touch.
Making his first NHL start on January 7th, Binnington has given the Blues some stability in the net. Jake Allen’s been a solid goalie for them over the years but he’s struggled with consistency and occasionally lets in the odd, weak goal that completely deflates the team.
Binnington, on the other hand, has been really solid for the Blues. Having a steady presence in the crease has given the team the confidence needed to play at an elite level.
Top-10 in slot save percentage and inner slot save percentage. Those are the kind of numbers that take the pressure off the players and let them loosen up and play better hockey.
Binnington’s actually faced fewer shots per game than Allen and less high-quality shots, too but he’s been saving his team over half a goal per game compared to league-average goaltending. Allen, on the other hand, has only managed to save 0.01 per game compared to league-average goaltending – pretty much as average as it gets.
Coincidentally, once Binnington started tending their net, Tarasenko took off. After an awful December where he only had two points in 13 games, he’s since scored 22 points in 17 games to go along with a nine-game point streak.
Tarasenko is the Blues top goal scorer and has been every season since the 2013-2014 season. When he’s finding the net their offense becomes deadly.
The Blues special teams haven’t changed much since January 1st but at even-strength they’ve changed their game around and so has Tarasenko. He’s averaging almost the exact same amount of shots but his shots are starting to come from more dangerous areas.
Tarasenko has one of the best releases in the league and he’s started to take advantage of the most dangerous area on the ice, where he was already getting a ton of chances from.
Of his 11 goals since January 1st, nine of them have come from the slot. When he finds time and space to let his shot go, there aren’t many goalies who have much of a chance at stopping it.
That goal is a perfect example of what happens when he gets loose. That’s a shot that’s almost impossible to stop.
Tarasenko has been scoring on 19.6% of his shots since January 1st which is quite a bit higher than his career 12.9% rate. There’s a good chance that corrects itself at some point but since he was scoring at a rate of 8.4% before that, it was safe to assume he would get hot sooner or later.
Getting Tarasenko going has been a huge key to this team. Any time your sniper has confidence, your team is going to score.
Since January 1st, the Blues have been scoring almost one more goal per game and Tarasenko is a huge piece of that but where they’ve really excelled has been on the back of Binnington.
They’ve been allowing 1.6 even-strength goals per game since January 1st which is second best out of any team. That’s almost a one goal per game change.
Adding an extra goal for and subtracting an extra goal against changes your odds to win drastically. The Blues have been two entirely different teams this year. If they continue to play the way they have been since the new year they have a legitimate chance of not only being a playoff team but being a team that could put together a run.
(Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images)