ST. LOUIS — At the time, it was a funny, yet stoic way of Jordan Binnington saying he had arrived in the NHL last season. All that even-keeled attitude he displays on the outside did was help carry him and the Blues to the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup in 2019.
Binnington carried that swag over to the 2019-20 season, and the 27-year-old registered 30 wins during the regular season and earn a trip to his first All-Star Game, which was played at Enterprise Center in January.
Binnington, who had a 2.56 goals-against average and .912 save percentage during the regular season, came back during the NHL's Return to Play Plan and performed well in the exhibition and round-robin games despite the numbers being a bit inflated.
But like the team, he didn't perform up to standards and struggled in the first-round series loss against the Vancouver Canucks, getting pulled for Jake Allen for Games 3-5 before returning for Game 6.
But Binnington, who allowed nine goals on 47 shots in Games 1-2, was pulled after giving up four goals on 18 shots in the series-clincher for the Canucks.
With one year remaining on a two-year, $8.8 million ($4.4 million average annual value) contract, Binnington discusses his struggles in the playoffs, having a short memory, getting pulled, among other topics:
Alexander Steen spoke of early in round-robin playing as well as you have, why or how did it slip away?
I felt good the first couple games, competing hard, but we weren't getting the outcomes. We were working trying to find our game. It just wasn't ideal, but we win together, we lose together. We won together last year and it kind of didn't go our way together this year, so for me personally, I know how good I am and how good I can be and I expect better of myself. Sometimes it's not going to go your way and you've got to get back on the horse and keep working and find your way.
How do you put it behind you now; is it tougher doing so in the off-season?
No, like any off-season, you get away for a little bit here, you reflect. It was a good season. We were top of the conference, so there are some positives to take away from this, right? This group knows how to win. We've got some great talent, some great young players and competitors. We'll be back. We'll do what we have to do to prepare for next season however that will look and that's it really.
How did you deal with struggling for the first time after having so much success?
I've struggled before. It took me a long time to get to where I'm at. To stay at the top, it's tough. You've got to stay on top of yourself. For me, everything I do is a learning experience. You just go through it, reflect and understand what makes you feel good and what didn't work out for you. You just keep moving. You live and learn and you grow. That's kind of my outlook.
Was it strange watching for the first time?
The whole situation is kind of strange with Return to Play. It's a weird time, it's been a strange year. You can talk about this all day, but it's a couple games and I know how to take care of myself. I think if you look at the big picture, it's a pretty good season. I gained a lot more experience, got some good ice and we won a lot of hockey games. For me, it's focus on the positives and learn from your experiences.
What do you do this off-season and how do you get back to being as sharp as you were last season?
We won last year and we didn't have much time to kind of turn things around and celebrate. This season kind of came at us pretty quick, so we had to be prepared and I was going into my first whole season. I wanted to stay ready, I wanted us to have a good start, kind of have a presence in there. You have your foundations, right, and you kind of build off that. For me, it's get back. I've been hanging out with my dog a little bit the last couple days, seeing family, get away for a little bit and then you kind of make your schedule and your routines and you prepare and you get organized. It's all about timing and just growing and continue to learn, right? For me, I'll get to the scheduling part and talk to my trainers, figure all that out as we go here.
Was it a strange season with everything you did from celebrations, celebrations, the Jay Bouwmeester incident, pause, return to play?
Yeah, for sure, with all the events you just named. Yeah, and then with the pause, it's been a strange year. We've had a lot of experiences though, right? You take that and you create a lot of memories and grew together as a group and as people. There's a lot of good coming out of the season. We had a great year and then there was just the pause and the uncertainty, trying to figure out when we were coming back. It's a strange time. It's our job to adapt and prepare and compete and play for each other, play for the city. We're just going to continue to do that and figure it out.
Is the window still open to win and will this quick loss make you even hungrier coming back next season?
Yeah, I think so. I think we have a great core, a lot of young guys. They've done a good job of putting this team together. It's a really selfless group and that's important. We obviously know how to win, just working as one and together and buying into the system. It's something we understand. It's a weird kind of tournament. It is what it is, but going forward, I think we have a little bit of a taste in our mouth. We know we're better and we know how good we are. We know how hard it is to win in this league. This is, I debate, the hardest trophy to win in sports. We've done it and that's important, and experience goes a long way. We've got a great group here. The organization does a good job of bringing in whatever we need and forming a group. I think we'll be alright.
On Alex Pietrangelo and what makes him so valuable:
Petro's a pretty dynamic player at both ends of the ice. He'll score a big goal, he'll be out there last minute of the game competing. He works hard. He's a big player for us, one of the best players in the NHL. That's the rundown.
What was bubble life like?
It was very unique. It was different. Not many distractions. I think I could paint the picture outside my window what I look at every day. I'll tell you what, hate us, love us, hate me, love me, we miss the fans, we miss the atmosphere. That energy is exciting, makes it more fun to play. It was a different experience and something we had to do. All the players came together, we worked and we did our best. The guys still there are working. They did a good job putting together what they can. It was different. We miss the atmosphere for sure.
A guy that fed off crowd in Winnipeg, fed off crowd in Boston, think it had any impact in terms of not being able to feed off home or opposition crowd?
You've always got to find a way. For me, I expect better of myself just to give the team a chance to win. I think we all kind of feel that way as a team. You definitely miss it, but you've got to find a way and whatever's thrown at you, I enjoy trying to figuring it out. Down the road here with whatever happens, I look forward to that challenge.
Do you go back and look at the games from Vancouver or move on?
We know how to play the game. Things weren't working for us at the time. You've got to just keep working, trying to change the wind in the sails, find a way. Obviously now, it's over, so it's just a couple games there. You've got to move forward, right? Live and learn. We know how to play the game. We're going to continue to work at that and work on the details and feeling good. It's all about feeling good.
Did you bring your guitar?
I didn't bring the guitar. Maybe I should have.
What are your goals as a hockey player individually? Ten years from now, how do you want to be remembered?
That's a great question. I just want to continue to grow my legacy. Just keep finding my motivation and energy to be the best kind of version of myself and for me to continue to grow, be a good person and a great teammate, leave a mark on the game, the city of St. Louis and continue to bring enjoyment to people's lives hopefully. I'd say just continue to grow every year, always get better and understand your motivations and your intentions.
Last year of contract, another prove-it year, how do you look at next year personally?
Just take care of what you can control. That's kind of my game and myself. The rest will take care of itself, let the money chase you.
What's the feeling like knowing this group isn't going to be together totally next year?
This is kind of like my first taste of that really. Being in the minors, it's always different teams, kind of just make it work. You buy in and that's what training camp's for. Hockey players understand what's at stake and how to come together, what you need to do to win. Whatever we come back with next year, we'll do our best to have the right outcome.
How does not knowing when you start next season affect your preparation?
It leaves a little uncertainty there. You always want to stay within striking distance. That was kind of the outlook coming up to the last Return to Play, but hopefully, I'm hoping that they can give us kind of a set date, even if it's a little deeper than they know when we're going to start so we can prepare for it. No delays, etc. It's not always going to be perfect. It's on us to prepare and be ready for whatever's to come. We'll prepare and adapt.
What will off-season look like as far as training standpoint?
No, we're only a couple days out of the end of the season here. We've played a lot of hockey over the last year and a half, a couple years actually. I'm just going to take a week or two kind of planning that out. Now's the time where we'll kind of figure that out. I don't really have an answer for you on that.
You going to get the Justin Bieber challenge going in the off-season?
Yeah, I haven't thought about that for a while. Who knows? We'll see what comes up here. I don't know what's going on with that.