It’s no small thing to be tabbed as the Chicago Wolves starting goaltender for Game 1 of the playoffs.
Look at the last four goaltenders to get the Game 1 nod for the Wolves: Jake Allen. Eddie Lack. Peter Mannino. Ondrej Pavelec. Three are busy in the Stanley Cup playoffs while the fourth has enjoyed a few cups of National Hockey League coffee.
Head coach John Anderson has chosen rookie Jordan Binnington as his starter for Game 1 against the Utica Comets on Wednesday night at Allstate Arena. Anderson utilized multiple criteria for his decision, but here’s the first one he listed:
“He’s got that demeanor where it’s not like he’s going to stew after a bad game and not be able to recover,” Anderson said. “That’s what I like about him…hopefully he has no bad games and I won’t have to stew over anything.”
Anderson offered that last aside with a smile. While he takes his job as seriously as anyone in hockey, he always insists that the game is meant to be fun.
Binnington belongs in the same camp. The 21-year-old has put in the work to rank among the AHL leaders in several categories this season, but he doesn’t get so worked up that he can’t enjoy the moment.
After Tuesday’s practice, for example, he talked earnestly about the task ahead in the playoffs. As the conversation turned a bit, Binnington flashed his sense of humor.
Many Wolves fans know Binnington has shared a house this season with defenseman Joel Edmundson and right wing Ty Rattie. But with Rattie involved in the NHL playoffs, their house hasn’t been quite the same. So Binnington and Edmundson invited rookie center Robby Fabbri, who joined the team Thursday, to move in rather than spend his evenings in a rental place alone.
“Yep, he’s in,” Binnington said. “ ‘Rats’ is out. Robby gets to live there and doesn’t have to pay anything. ‘Rats’ is paying for it.”
That begged the question: Is there any personal stuff of Rattie’s that Fabbri is using?
“Toothbrush, I think,” Binnington replied with a smile.
BINNER’S REGULAR-SEASON NUMBERS
Jordan Binnington has enjoyed a strong rookie season, which included a franchise-record 18 consecutive starts from Jan. 17 through March 6. Here are his stats and his AHL rank in several categories:
Wins: 25 (tied for fifth overall and tied for second among rookies)
Goals-against average: 2.35 (14th overall and sixth among rookies)
Save percentage: .916 (22nd overall and ninth among rookies)
Minutes: 2,555.24 (14th overall and fourth among rookies)
Saves: 1,095 (14th overall and fourth among rookies)