The Sens' affiliate took on the Norfolk Admirals on Saturday night because, according to AHL schedule-makers, playing them twice the weekend before wasn't congested enough.
The Binghamton Senators returned home after six games on the road to play host to the Norfolk Admirals, with whom they had spent the previous weekend. Bingo split with the Ducks' affiliate last weekend and headed into Saturday night with the chance to improve on their 4-4-2 record. The Admirals had put three past Lehner the previous Saturday before getting another four past Bishop on their way to a win on Sunday. The only fixture that broke up their three meetings was Binghamton's eighth-round shootout loss to the WBS Penguins Wednesday night.
Binghamton took to home ice playing as though they had something to prove, dominating the Admirals in the opening frame, connecting once on the powerplay and twice at even strength, taking a 3-0 lead into the dressing room. Outshooting Norfolk 15-9, Luke RIchardson's boys backed up an outstanding offensive period with good defensive support for their goaltender. Gradually emerging from the perimeter, Jakob Silfverberg had two assists in the period. His second was particularly notable-- threading a pass to Corey Cowick on the side of the net who one-touched it to Andre Benoit for a half-open cage. Cowick also scored the game-opening goal.
In their game against the Syracuse Crunch a few weeks ago, the B-Sens kindly taught their fans that no lead is safe in the AHL, coughing up a five-goal lead to drop a 6-5 decision. So, those of us watching the game Saturday night can be forgiven for not sitting back after an excellent first period. Indeed, Binghamton exhibited some flaws as the game wore on, eventually doubling the Admirals 4-2.
Derek Grant had his second goal of the season, capitalizing on a short-handed breakaway in the second period. Binghamton now has a serious case of Antoine Vermette syndrome, with five shorthanded tallies on the year, good for first in the league and only one shy of their powerplay total. For that to make sense, either the powerplay has to be horrendous or the penalty kill record-breaking outstanding. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Deflecting or absorbing 31 of the 33 sent his way, Robin Lehner backstopped the B-Sens, but was supported by a strong defensive effort. Binghamton now has five wins on the year, with Robin Lehner having started in all of them. The B-Sens will look for back-to-back wins on Friday night, as they play host to the Flyers' Adirondack Phantoms. The Rochester Amerks will pay a visit to the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday.
Some updates and observations:
- Good for Derek Grant. He broke in on Andersen (who had stepped in for Bobkov for the second and third period) and simply out-waited and froze the goaltender, snapping the puck through the five-hole. Grant is expected to ultimately play for the Senators, likely in a third-line role, but needs to perform well at this level if he is ever going to make that jump from a crowded prospect pool. Grant didn't have a rookie season worth raving about. Grant's strength emphasizes hockey IQ and special teams ability, but a modicum of offensive production will be necessary for him to be considered at the NHL-level.
- Robin Lehner is not only winning games and stopping pucks, but building a relationship with his defenders. When the puck is dumped into Binghamton's zone, Lehner often looks like somewhat of a quarterback, making quick decisions and moving the puck. Stickhandling goaltenders may not be the asset they once were, but it is representative of a good relationship with his defensemen. That rapport has exhibited itself in other important situations: when loose pucks are lying in front of Lehner, his d-men are quick to clear the area and chaos in the slot is not a trademark of this year's Binghamton Senators. The impact of this chemistry can hardly be overstated. When the D can confidently clear the puck, forwards rarely collapse around the net, sticking to their appointments on the points. That not only limits their opponents' ability to create offense around defensive mayhem, but also makes for more efficient breakouts.
- What happened to Pat Cannone? The forward, signed as a free agent out of college, put up a very productive rookie year in the AHL. So far this season, he has two points, one of them being an assist on Cowick's game-opening goal against the Admirals. Cannone is in the middle of a serious glut of potential top-nine players the Sens have in the system. Cannone is a player with a strong offensive skill-set. He needs to start showing it off more.
- It's too early to call Mark Stone snakebitten, so I won't. With 4 assists through his first 5 games, Stone looked good on Saturday night. He hit a crossbar on a first period break, which is something a snakebitten player would do. However, he also made a slick against-the-grain pass to Mike Hoffman on the powerplay. Stone was noticeable in his return.
- Andre Petersson started the season quietly, but scored on the powerplay Saturday night. One would think he would benefit playing on a team with plenty of other forwards who have spent time in Elitserien, but that has been slow to emerge, if it is going to.
- Mika ZIbanejad still hasn't scored, but he doesn't look too worried.