Z. Smith is the one not giving a crap.
Where do you even start a recap for a game like this? A game that represented the culmination of a season's worth of frustration and adversity for Ottawa's AHL affiliate? At one point this season, they weren't even in playoff position. The Ottawa Senators kept calling up talent when Binghamton needed it most. The BSens had to battle just to get into the playoffs, and then played most of their various series without their regular defensemen.
And now they're the 2010-11 Calder Cup champions.
Our own Peter Raaymakers said it best, I think, so I'm just going to plagiarize him:
This was an incredible run. So much adversity… injuries and call-ups throughout the B-Sens season, but they managed to sneak in to the playoffs.
Then they were down in the first round, and were on the brink of elimination—but won four games in overtime to come from a monumental 3-1 series deficit and win it.
Then, a couple more straight-forward series, nonetheless impressive wins.
And in the finals, they were down 1-0 and then 2-1 in the series, and came back from both deficits—and then in game six, were down 2-1 and came back once again to win the game and clinch the series.
Seriously… incredible. One of the most incredible playoff runs I’ve ever been witness to.
Bro was on: Robin Lehner
Don't agree? You're stupid. Lehner was the winner of the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy, awarded to the AHL playoff MVP. That's the equivalent of the Conn Smythe, people. And it wasn't just awarded because Lehner looks like Ivan Drago. The man who sparked the comeback from down 3-1? The man who stopped a penalty shot in OT that would have sent the team home? Lehner was a major reason for the team's victories, and he was again tonight, making 34 saves on 36 shots, including a mystic paddle save on an open net with the score tied 0-0 in the first. He was also the backbone in helping Binghamton survive four consecutive penalty calls in the second period. The first two resulted in goals, but the last two resulted in nothing -- and if you have to ask if he was instrumental in protecting the lead in the third period... well, you haven't read anything I've written.
(read on for more...)
You may be wondering about the game.
The play, of course, was not the highest quality being that this was the AHL, but it was certainly entertaining. Most telling was that four of the five goals scored in this affair came on the power play. Houston's goalie, Matt Hackett, kept his team in the game, and they had their chances. Binghamton was just one chance better -- in an elimination game, that's all they needed to be.
Goal by Goal:
Roman Wick, 2:28 of the 2nd - Wick returns after missing two games with injury to scoop in a garbage goal. Houston had left the first carrying the play to Binghamton, but the BSens started the second flying. The team buzzed the net repeatedly and finally managed a goal for their effort. Assists went to Kaspars "Rooster" Daugavins and Corey Locke, who showed excellent vision all game.
Jon DiSalvatore, 6:37 of the 2nd - With Andre Benoit in the box for slashing and Jared Cowen out with a concussion, the Aeros power play unit works over the BSens penalty killers. DiSalvatore wound up as the third star of the game, probably due to this goal. Jerks Maxim Noreau and Patrick O'Sullivan get the assists.
About four minutes later, Eric Gryba, trying to do too much in the absence of Cowen gets sent off for tripping. The Aeros PP goes back to work and they look good again. This time Jean-Michael Daoust, another RW, pots one. Both Aeros goals tonight came from the RW position on the power play. It felt to me like they identified a weakness, and at this point I was most worried. Someone needed to step up, and as we read above, that person turned out to be Lehner.
Don't worry, the sad part of the recap is over. Just 2:39 into the third, Binghamton got themselves a make-up call. With known cheater Marco Scandella off for high-sticking, Bobby Butler found himself able to skate in alone -- with the puck -- from the left point. Bored with the scenery, The Bust decided to shoot, and sniped one in to tie the game. I was very surprised to see such a dangerous forward given so much space. Apparently Butler was playing one of the points on the power play for at least this game, and for reasons I can't explain, he was covered as if he was a defenseman. Butler, of course, is not Chris Phillips, so the shot did not wind up square in Hackett's chest. Erik Condra got an easy assist for moving the puck backwards to someone more talented.
Then this happened: On the next power play, BSens captain Ryan Keller finds himself heading down the right wing with no real options. The unit's not set and Hackett's covering the near post. Keller decides to take an extremely low-percentage shot -- and it's as perfectly aimed as any shot you've ever seen. The window over Hackett's shoulder is maybe the size of a paperback novel. I know what you're thinking. But it's not impossible, and Keller bullseyes it. Andre Benoit bags the assist.
After that, the Aeros poured it on, but they just couldn't catch a break. Geoff Kinrade apparently made a pretty huge play, but I missed it because AHL Live crapped out in the last minute. (Dear AHL Live: when considering acceptable downtimes for your product, I submit to you that the LAST MINUTE OF A CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATION GAME IS NOT ONE OF THEM. Please consider this in your future stress testing. Thank you.) Don't worry, I'm sure it will be in the highlights, so you can just recap it in your head with your own funny commentary.
BSens Hero: Andre Benoit
Best defenseman in the game for either side, and that's including his penalty that led to a goal. I still don't think he's more than a third-pairing defenseman at the NHL level, but I'd be willing to bet money he'd be one of the last cuts at training camp in a few months. His decision-making was really sound in this game, and if he was a half-second faster, he'd be a good NHL guy.
Unimpressive: Derek Smith
Even in an AHL game he looked so... average to me that I don't know what else to say. There wasn't anything about his play that stood out to me. I'm not sure what he contributes to the team except a warm body.
The best line: Daugavins-O'Brien-Zack Smith
Despite accounting for 11 of Binghamton's 27 (that's 40 percent!) shots, they only had one assist to show for it, and Jim "Pee Wee" O'Brien and and Z. Smith weren't even on the ice for it! Still, offensive zone time matters, and these guys generated a lot.
Forthcoming. Watch these, you won't be disappointed.
Well, that officially brings to a close Ottawa's season. There's no more Senators-related hockey to watch. With their AHL affiliate winning the league's top prize, strong performances from its two best defensive prospects, a huge performance by its goalie of the future, and 5 draft picks in the top 60, there's plenty of reasons for optimism for the Senators franchise as they look to recover from the atrocious season we all suffered through.
Silver Seven isn't taking any time off. We're going to have a lot of content in the coming days, so be sure to check it out!