Alexandar Georgiev earns Avalanche fans’ love after Binnington confrontation


If Alexandar Georgiev hadn’t endeared himself to Avalanche fans yet, there’s no doubt he won them over in the last game before the NHL All-Star break.

What’s the secret? A willingness to drop the goalie gloves with Jordan Binnington.

Georgiev told The Post he wasn’t too familiar with the history between the Avalanche and Binnington, but “now that you say it, I think I remember a couple scraps.”

“Doesn’t matter to me,” he added with a shrug.

Makes sense that the prickly past doesn’t come up often in conversation with teammates: Avalanche coach Jared Bednar told The Post last month that he doesn’t address Binnington’s extracurricular habits when game-planning for the St. Louis goaltender. “That’s not exclusive to us, as you see,” Bednar said at the time. “I think it’s just kind of his personality.”

When Binnington flashed his personality again in a 4-2 Avalanche win over the Blues, Georgiev charged into battle to meet him. The goalie fight never came to fruition — “the ref called me back,” Georgiev said — but it’s the thought that counts.

Ball Arena bestowed upon Georgiev an honor usually reserved for fan favorite Pavel Francouz, the backup goalie.

They chanted his name.

“Pretty special,” Georgiev said. “I appreciate that, and it’s a lot of fun playing in this building.”

Not that he needed such a gesture to earn popularity. The chant was the fans’ way of thanking the first-year netminder who has fit like a glove in Denver. Entering the week off, he is second among NHL goalies in 5-on-5 save percentage (.935) and fourth in 5-on-5 goals allowed average (2.00). Only Linus Ullmark leads him in save percentage, and his stats are padded by virtue of playing for the juggernaut Bruins.

What makes Georgiev’s season all the more impressive is that he’s an everyday starter for the first time in his NHL career. The Avs (27-18-3) took a chance on him to carry Darcy Kuemper’s Stanley Cup-winning torch, and the start Saturday was Georgiev’s 34th of the season, already passing his previous career high.

His addition to the Binnington novel started when Logan O’Connor tried to bury a rebound in the Blues’ net. Binnington didn’t take kindly to O’Connor’s physical put-back attempt, so he departed his crease and tried to shove the Avalanche forward. As the scrum moved toward the end boards, Binnington followed. He even tried to grab hold of the mighty Kurtis MacDermid from behind.

“(O’Connor) was a little aggressive around the net,” Binnington said. “It happens. It’s hockey. They played hard, so it happens sometimes, and you handle it how you want to handle it.”

Georgiev handled it by skating to center ice before the tensions simmered.

“Felt like (Binnington) was a little too aggressive. And doesn’t feel right that they’re at six guys who are attacking our five,” Georgiev said. “I don’t think that’s right, so I was ready to talk to him on the center ice, or whatever.”

Just talk? Georgiev, who enjoys playing coy, smirked.

“Maybe,” he said.

He hasn’t been in a goalie fight before — just “a little wrestling when I was a kid” — but he does have a reputation for not holding back. In New York, he was involved in an altercation with Rangers teammate Tony DeAngelo.

And he has kept his emotions on his sleeve since arriving in Colorado, evident in his emphatic celebration after beating Igor Shesterkin and the Rangers in a shootout, or in his frustration earlier this month when he smashed his stick on the crossbar after allowing a third goal in three minutes to Vancouver.

This time, the eagerness to offer his fighting services went unnoticed by teammates Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar, whose focus was at the other end of the ice. But the fans noticed and made it clear. Georgiev said he didn’t expect a pat on the back from teammates anyway.


Source link