As the Ottawa Senators try and earn a playoff berth during the rest of the week, the Binghamton Senators will be preparing for their return to the post-season. The B-Sens under first-year boss Luke Richardson will head back to the playoffs for the first time since their triumphant Calder Cup run of 2010-2011. This team, however, is in many ways different from the group of just two seasons ago. Mark Borowiecki is still around, serving this time as team captain, one of only three Binghamton Senators to still be on the roster.
Binghamton are going to face off against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the first round, against whom they have won 6 of 10 this year. Nathan Lawson was injured on the weekend, but the B-Sens are hoping to have him back in the lineup for Game 1 of the playoffs, according to Bingo beat writer Matt Weinstein on twitter. In the better part of three games over the weekend, Marc Cheverie allowed only four goals, a good boost of confidence for Cheverie, who may need to step in during the playoffs if Lawson isn't completely healthy. Lawson is not Ben Bishop or Robin Lehner, but he has been very strong for Binghamton since the end of the NHL lockout.
The WBS Penguins are led on the stats sheet by Chad Kolarik, an AHL veteran who has played a grand total of six games at the NHL level. He came over to the Penguins halfway through the regular season and has been very good since- their very own Rob Klinkhammer. Riley Holzapfel and Trevor Smith are important pieces to the Penguins' offence as well. Jeff Zatkoff back-stops this team, and does it very well. After 49 regular season games, Zatkoff is showing off a .920 save percentage and 1.93 goals-against-average.
Binghamton and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton are the 4/5 matchup in the AHL's East, but there are eight points seperating the two. Binghamton was only a Syracuse loss on Saturday night away from winning the division and taking third. However, winning the division wouldn't have precluded them from playing WBS, who finished their season only one point clear of sixth.
The B-Sens are a young roster that has only gotten younger. Cody Ceci made his professional debut this weekend, scoring a goal on Sunday's 5-1 smack-around against the Syracuse Crunch. Matt Puempel returned to the B-Sens after his short stint last season. The two of them are going to practice with the team during the week and considering how Ceci impressed this past weekend, will likely be in the lineup for opening night of the playoffs on Friday.
What Regular Season?
Binghamton finished out their regular season this past weekend, but who cares about that when there are playoffs to watch? They won two out of their three, but the one loss (a 2-1 affair against the Manchester Monarchs on Friday night) proved to be the decisive one in losing the division title. The Binghamton Senators directed 38 shots at the Manchester goal, but only managed to get one over the red line. It came off the stick of Pat Cannone, his tenth of the season. Imagine that- a Senators team that outshoots its opponents and somehow manages not to win the game? Eerie. This was the game in which Lawson was injured. Marc Cheverie came in and played in relief.
Cheverie started the game against Hershey, which the B-Sens won 4-2. It was an impressive showing for Binghamton, considering their secure playoff status coming into the night. Hershey, on the other hand, was fighting for a playoff position, which they ultimately secured on Sunday afternoon. Binghamton has been able to count on the efficiency of their penalty kill all season long, but the same can hardly be said of the inconsistent powerplay. It was rolling on all cylinders on Saturday, however, as they were 2/3 on the night. The Hershey center taking a faceoff violation immediately after an interference call against his team was rather considerate support for the beleaguered man advantage. Stephane da Costa capitalized. Michael Sdao got in a fight during the first period, as is his wont.
In a rather meaningless game, with both their playoff positions locked up, Binghamton hammered the Crunch 5-1 on Sunday afternoon, which was fun for all involved. Well, other than the Crunch, who probably didn't enjoy themselves very much. Corey Cowick, Cole Schneider and Derek Grant all had goals and multi-point performances. Scott Greenham also played his first few minutes as a Binghamton Senator and stopped all seven shots directed his way, just for fun with the stats sheet.
Binghamton and WBS play this Friday and Saturday.