Last season, after the big club had played out the string in entertaining fashion, Senators fans were left with the AHL team's stunning championship run to fill the playoffs-sized hole in our hearts. That, and deciding whether to join the pro-Vancouver bandwagon or the anti-Vancouver bandwagon. This season, after a disappointment of a year down in Binghamton, there is no Calder Cup chase to satisfy us. What now?! Worry not! There's always the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs, featuring the Ottawa affiliated Elmira Jackals. The Senators share their affiliation to the Craig Rivet-captained Jackals with the Anaheim Ducks. They're taking on the Toronto and Boston affiliated Reading Royals as first seed of the Eastern Conference. Senators prospects Louie Caporusso and Corey Cowick will be among those playing for Elmira. Alas, a playoff drive to cheer for. I feel like there's something I'm forgetting...
Oh, right! Mike McKenna was named the Binghamton Senators 'Man of the Year'. The award in a league-wide sense seems to operate on the same premise as the Masterton Trophy in the NHL, in that every team nominates one player whose name is put forth as a candidate for the overall award. However it works out, it's good to see a player like McKenna get his due. He came in while everyone was in the throes of what has since been diagnosed as "Lehnsanity." As a result, the organization and probably to a degree McKenna himself, expected him to be the second fiddle in the Robin Lehner Show. The reality has been different.
The AHL schedule makes having a legitimate starting goaltender a pretty enduring proposition. With stretches of three games in as many nights, a more shared responsibility is virtually inevitable. McKenna's decent and fairly consistent play has ensured that his position never strayed far past the 1b slot, if that. They have shared the crease. McKenna seems like a good character player who has no problem with the role he plays. The veteran AHLer (he has suited up for a few games in the NHL with the Lightning and Devils) should be welcomed back to the Senators in the offseason. It would make sense to maintain some level of constancy between this year's roster and next, as well as having a guy who can continue to compete with Robin Lehner.
Other Prospect Notes and Observations:
- The CHL playoffs are well underway and there are a few Senatorial things of note. Stefan Noesen is leading the charge in the OHL with 14 points through six games. Getting FIVE POINTS IN ONE GAME will help that a little bit. His Whalers were down by two, but fought back and won four straight. They'll face the Kitchener Rangers in the second round.
- In the first round of their playoffs, the QMJHL effectively (also respectfully, I'm sure) laughed in the face of 'parity'. Of eight first round matchups, the only one that wasn't a sweep was Jean-Gabriel Pageau's Chicoutimi doubling up Acadie-Bathurst. At first, I figured the most uneven split had to be Halifax's dismantling of Moncton by a total of 22-8 in goals. Then I saw how Quebec did away with Drummondville by a total of 26-8. Then I realized everything else was child's play when held up against St. John's 34-8 series against Cape Breton. Pageau and Chicoutimi will face Shawinigan in the second round, where they are likely to show even less mercy for one another.
- Mark Stone, Coach Clouston and the gang will take on the Edmonton Oil Kings in the second round of the WHL playoffs. Stone currently has a point-a-
period...game? What's this "Stone scoring at a human pace" business?
- With things coming to a head in Sweden, albeit at different ends of the spectrum (Silfverberg's Brynas on the up, Zibanejad's Djurgarden on the decline), it will be interesting to see what the organization does with these players. Ian Mendes implied on twitter that the Senators would prefer Mika to see time in Binghamton's final few games of the season coming up this weekend.
- Binghamton held off a resilient Hershey Bears squad (kind of, I'll get to that) in a game that saw Cole Schneider record his first professional point. For a game that had eleven goals during regulation time, the shooters sure could not figure out how to beat the goaltenders come shootout time. Even Ryan Potulny, who had a hat-trick, was stymied by Robin Lehner. The two teams were deadlocked until their fourth respective shooters, who both scored. The drought then came back drier than ever. The next sixteen shooters missed. Eric Gryba was the unlikely eventual hero, but a much deserved kudos should be sent the way of Robin Lehner, who allowed five goals on thirty-five shots, only to shut the door on twelve of thirteen opportunities in the shootout. Insane.
- Seriously, these two teams went thirteen rounds in the shootout. I had an intra-mural game go almost twice that length. By the end, we were questioning everything we thought we knew about our goaltender, the shootout, the sport of hockey, and mankind. We won, though.