All that Sens fans could talk on Monday was playoffs and hypotheticals. It was a fun day, of speculation and endless possibilities. Unless, of course, your eye was turned to the AHL playoffs, where Binghamton is down 2-0 at the hands of their neighbors and division rivals, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. On Thursday, Ottawa plays Montreal to open the playoffs, the first time the two teams will have faced one another in the modern era of the NHL playoffs. On the same night, Binghamton will take the ice at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, fighting for the right to play in a game four and keep the season alive.
Binghamton aren't the only team fighting for their season later this week. The Providence Bruins, Manchester Monarchs, Portland Pirates, and Rochester Americans are all facing elimination, owing to the AHL's first round rule change, which switched from a best-of-seven format to a best-of-five. In Game One in Binghamton on Saturday night, the B-Sens rebounded from an early 2-0 deficit to tie the game and carried on for the better part of two periods of play, taking it to overtime.
The trio of Stephane Da Costa, Shane Prince and Mark Stone generated both of the B-Sens goals on the night, one of which came on the man advantage. There was fortuitous news for head coach Luke Richardson heading into the weekend, as Nathan Lawson was declared fit to play. Lawson had endured a knee injury the week before, which had to be concerning for the team's playoff hopes. Without a premier AHL goalie backstopping a team, making a deep drive in the race for the Calder Cup is extremely difficult. However, the team is down 0-2, so that drive is already on life support.
After a duo of Chad Kolarik goals had buried them the night before, Binghamton came out firing on Sunday. They directed 36 shots at Jeff Zatkoff on Saturday, compared to the 33 they faced. On Sunday, they possessed the puck. Binghamton outshot Wilkes-Barre 37-24, but again were only able to get two past Zatkoff. Through two games, Zatkoff has stopped 69 of 73 shots. Rest assured some B-Sens will be kept awake parts of this week trying to dream up ways of beating the Pens' goalie.
Matt Puempel was on the board in the first, leveling the B-Sens after WBS had pulled ahead with a powerplay marker. The level footing was short-lived for Binghamton. They surrendered two in the second and a last-minute powerplay goal off the stick of Chris Wideman.
Bingo Hero: Chris Wideman
His buzzer beater against the Penguins was his second point of the evening and his third of the weekend. On a team that needs to continue generating offence, players might want to look to Wideman. The first-year pro has made the best of his time on the team since getting bumped back up from Elmira earlier in the year.
Bingo Hero: Stephane Da Costa and Mark Stone
The B-Sens haven't scored a goal in the playoffs without these two players being on the ice. They're making things happen. Both have been at their best in recent weeks. Stone in particular has taken heed of whatever the coaches in Ottawa told him to do.
Bobby Enemy: AHL Live
During the regular season, fans can purchase their entire team's season for 150 dollars. When you consider that means often watching a stadium camera that is occasionally synced with the radio broadcast, that's a steep price to pay. However, it's tolerable. It's online access to professional hockey that is fairly reliable, if lacking in quality. The games are archived, which is convenient.
During the playoffs, the AHL go from small league offering service to fans to evil corporation gouging consumers. Forty dollars for the first two rounds of only your team playing in the playoffs? That's opportunistic and annoying for customers who stick with the teams through the regular season. It's also quite the deterrent to fans of NHL teams who have no post-season and want to see how the AHL kids are doing. It also makes me angry and sad and unable to watch Binghamton games. Fix that, please.