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Hochman: Forget a Gold Glove — the goalie glove of Blues’ Binnington is St. Louis’ best-flashed leather

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Binnington glove

The glove used by Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, who’s known around the National Hockey League for having a good “glove hand.” Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Blues

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In a town with Harrison Bader, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Yadier Molina, the best glove in St. Louis sports might belong to Blues goalie Jordan Binnington. And that’s saying something, considering that baseball’s Gold Gloves will be awarded on Sunday, and the Cardinals have six finalists, which happens to be an all-time record.

But Binnington, hand to God, has a glove hand of a god. Per the hockey data site Stathletes, Binnington made the most glove saves in the past two seasons in the National Hockey League. The Blues’ No. 50 totaled 254 … and led the guy in second by 50.

“He’s got an elite glove hand, and that’s a great trait to have, because you can control the play,” said Jamie McLennan, an 11-year NHL goalie who’s now a TV analyst for TSN in Canada. “If you’re batting at the puck, there are a lot of rebounds, a lot of loose change around the net. Jordan’s really good at catching pucks and dictating the play from back there.”

Unlike baseball, hockey doesn’t have an award for best goalie hands, but if anything, Binnington has a “Goldschmidt glove.” Really, it’s as if he’s got the best qualities of all the Cardinals’ glove guys in one. Behind the mask, Binnington moves his body like Yadi, he’s got Harrison flair and like Arenado, he dispirits Colorado. Such was the case in the Avalanche-Blues season opener, when Colorado’s sure-shot Mikko Rantanen shot a sure goal … until Binnington, from seemingly another ZIP code, zipped over to make a glove save.

“When a goal scorer thinks he’s got a goaltender to the glove side, and then that goaltender fires the glove up there — and the puck’s in the webbing? Guys shrink real quick,” said Darren Pang, a former NHL netminder and current broadcaster for both Blues and nationally televised games. “Their shoulders, their body language, you see it.

“And I feel that in a seven-game playoff series against the same team, if a goalie has a weakness like a glove, they will pick you apart. I can go through the number of goaltenders that have really, really struggled with that, because the criticism becomes so large that it gets in your head. I know because I’ve done enough national games where I watch the same goaltenders. And if I can come up with a scouting report on a goaltender in five minutes, then you know the other team has spent hours and hours breaking it down on video.”

Binnington, of course, ignited one of the most-astounding postseason runs in hockey history (heck, in sports history). A fourth-string goalie thrown into a starting job, he led the 2019 Blues from the fewest points to the playoffs to the Stanley Cup.

“We saw so many times in the Cup run,” Pang said, “where he sucked the life out of the opposition with a great glove save.”

Balance and talent

But what makes a goalie become a great glove goalie? In a phone conversation, Binnington described the importance of “reps” with the glove hand to “get the feel” with the mitt. The study of game film can be game-changing. Steve Cash, a St. Louis native and four-time goalie in the Paralympics, said it’s not just Binnington’s glove, but his whole “glove side is very strong,” while also describing Binnington’s “balance” in blocker-glove save selection.

McLennan said childhood baseball players sometimes have an advantage, but the Canadian Binnington has never worn a Rawlings. Developing hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes is any goalie’s goal. But for all the efforts, as Pang said, “You either have that hand-eye coordination and that hockey sense and ability — or you just, quite frankly, don’t have it. … There are so many goaltenders that are excellent goaltenders, but they’re more blocking-style goaltenders.”

Part of the allure is the lure. Or really, part of the illusion is the lure. The best glove goalies — be it Binnington or Pekka Rinne or Grant Fuhr — will purposely keep their glove hands a little lower, allowing shooters to think there’s more space to score. But the goalie has already answered the physics equation in his noggin — he knows exactly the distance his glove hand must go to catch a certain shot.

Binnington insists that he doesn’t “consider myself much of a flasher, but there are guys who make it look pretty sweet,” such as Marc-André Fleury, who has caught a flurry of shots over the years. Fuhr made his name with Edmonton, but when he came to St. Louis in 1995, locals witnessed this glove guy who was as good as Ozzie (or, at least, Gold Glove catcher Tom Pagnozzi).

“Fuhr used to set everything up for a big glove save,” said McLennan, who backed up Fuhr for two St. Louis seasons in the late-1990s. “He liked to set up the big showboat save and call it the ‘Statue of Liberty.’”

Crafted by Lefevre

Up in Terrebonne, Quebec, an off-island Montreal suburb on the shores of Rivière des Mille-Îles, a proud family keeps up the family business.

Since the 1970s, the Lefevre family has hand-crafted hockey goalie equipment. And for years, major companies worked out deals to sell Lefevre products under their auspices — from Koho to Reebook to CCM. Binnington is loyal to the Lefevres — after all, their product has saved him with some saves — so when True replaced CCM, Binnington switched to True pads and gloves.

Binnington uses the L12.2 True model, and his webbing is white, complemented with some flashes of both blue and, yes, gold on his glove. The word “TRUE” screams prominently across the front, but toward the wrist, in smaller letters, there’s a red maple leaf and the words “CRAFTED by LEFEVRE for BINNINGTON.”

The relationship between a goalie and his glove can often be both dutiful and beautiful. They care for it and treat it as an extension of themselves. Although recently engaged to his true love, Canadian actress Cristine Prosperi, Binnington isn’t much of a romantic when it comes to gloves. Over the years, some goalies have spoken almost poetically about their affection for their glove, Pang said. And a lot of that is because of the care that goes into the upkeep.

These days, gloves come pretty much ready for game use, but in the past, goalies had to nurture their glove like a ballplayer would — and perhaps anoint it with an ointment. Cash would break in his glove by placing a softball in there and tying it tight with rope. McLennan recalled lathering oils on his glove. And he’d tape it with tape to give it “shape.”

“I’ve even heard of a guy who put pucks in his glove, taped it, and then ran it over with his car,” McLennan said.

For Binnington, the glove and his hand work in symmetry to commit robbery.

He steals goals.

He’s a pick-pucketer.

“Yeah, he’s got a great glove,” said Blues teammate Tyler Bozak, whose name is near Binnington’s on the Stanley Cup. “And he’s got a great everything else.”

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman shares thoughts on Ville Husso, who is Jordan Binnington’s backup and an important part of this regular-season run to be. And, as always, Hochman chooses a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat.

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