DALLAS — Statistically speaking, Blues backup goalie Ville Husso is one of the best in the NHL.
Husso has a 0.50 goals-against average and a .984 save percentage, both of which are second-best in the NHL for all goalies. Only Zach Fucale of Washington, who has appeared in one game, a 21-shot shutout against Detroit on Nov. 11, is ahead of him. (Fucale is currently back in the minors.) At moneypuck.com, Husso is also second to Fucale in goals saved above expected per 60 minutes at 1.75.
Husso, of course, has started only two games, but they’ve been two good ones: a 34-save shutout of Los Angeles on Oct. 25 and a 4-1 win over San Jose on Thursday where he stopped 26 of 27 shots. Add in his final game of last season, another shutout, and Husso has allowed just one goal in his past 180 minutes.
Despite that success, those two games are the only ones Husso has played in among the team’s first 17. Often, coaches will reward a goalie who has a shutout with a start in the next game, but for the Blues, that hasn’t happened. The next game after Husso’s shutout was against Colorado, and coach Craig Berube went with Jordan Binnington for that key divisional matchup. Berube went with Binnington again on Saturday for another division game as Husso gets back up to speed after missing seven games because of COVID, which likely cost him two starts.
The Blues have back-to-back games just after Thanksgiving, and Husso will get one of those, but his play so far cries out for more ice time and Berube hears that.
“Yeah, for sure,” Berube said Saturday. “I think that was a plan before he got COVID. His first game was excellent. But then he got COVID and so we’re definitely going to need him and we’re going to use him.”
Since Binnington ascended to the No. 1 goalie spot in 2018-19, he has started 73 percent of the games, leaving little time for his backups. But Husso, who had some nerve-racking outings in his rookie season, has come a long way.
“I think there was just a lot of work that he put in in the summer and a lot of work that him and Davie (Alexander, the Blues goalie coach) put in in training camp, even before camp just working on things,” Berube said. “He just looks more comfortable in net to me more than anything. I think he’s confident right now, even looking at him, he goes out and plays a lot more pucks and he looks big in net, so that’s confidence.”
“He’s been really good, especially last game,” defenseman Colton Parayko said. “He made some big saves, especially early on that could have made momentum changes in the game. ... He gives us a good chance to win every time he’s in net.”
Eight is too much
The Blues have eight healthy defensemen at the moment, one more than teams normally carry. Both Jake Walman and Niko Mikkola, the healthy scratches on Saturday, would have to go through waivers to be sent down to the AHL and the Blues don’t want to risk losing either one of them.
That’s a tough spot for Mikkola, who was the odd man out at the start of the season when Walman was playing, and the arrival of Scott Perunovich is making it even harder for Berube to get him into the lineup. Saturday was the 10th healthy scratch for Mikkola this season, along with five games missed because of COVID. He has played in just two games, the most recent on Nov. 4.
“We’re planning on getting him in there, for sure,” Berube said. “But I thought the defense looked really good last game. I didn’t want to make a change for tonight’s game. But you’re right. We’ve got to get Mikkola in there. He’s an important part of our team. And we’ll find out room for him. We’ll just do what we have to do to get him in.”