The Ottawa Senators have been on a bit of a rough stretch. After gliding along at upwards of %98 likelihood of making the playoffs, the team has dropped four straight and SportsClubStats currently has them sitting at a measly, paltry %94. Inexcusable. If you found yourself throwing up your arms in exasperation at the team's ineptitude to make the puck cross the goal line (conclusively, at least), I have some suggestions for how to find solace. First, of course, spend most of your day laughing at RBM's post from the other day. Then, crack a hint of a smile at this good news: the Binghamton Senators are going to the playoffs.
With the Elmira Jackals already underway in their first-round matchup, Binghamton locked themselves into a playoff spot this weekend for the second time in the past three seasons. What's more is that the B-Sens managed the feat in spite of losing both games they played this weekend playing visitor against Norfolk on Friday and Saturday night.
Marc Cheverie and Nathan Lawson split the starts, but neither was given much support by the skaters in front of them. Despite stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced, Lawson's teammates were only able to muster one goal, which came off the stick of Cole Schneider. Last year's college free agent signee has been on a roll lately, and his tally was assisted by Mark Stone and Brett Lebda, both of whom have figured into the scoresheet for Binghamton in the past few weeks. In fact, Lebda's been so active with his helpers, it's almost worth starting up a Brett Lebda Assist Watch (BLAW).
Unfortunately for the team and for Marc Cheverie, who started on Saturday, that was the only offence Binghamton's sticks would be able to create the entire weekend. Clearly, they have a little something in common with the big club. While fans in Ottawa were clamoring for a call-up of one of Binghamton's forwards to fix the NHL team's scoring woes (some twitter speculation surrounded Stephane Da Costa), the Frenchman himself was in Norfolk, not finding a fix for AHL scoring woes. Cheverie played well enough for the B-Sens, stopping 28 of 30 shots that came his way, but that proved to be infinite too many goals allowed, since Binghamton was blanked. Norfolk added an empty net goal to finish off a weekend to forget, if it weren't for:
Binghamton has won the last four playoff series they've been in. That's quite a statistic. Of course, being one of the worst teams in the AHL, they missed last season's post-season. Binghamton's first round match-up remains to be seen. There are two weeks left in the season. One has to wonder if Andrew Hammond will get a chance to start in the Binghamton net before the season is said and done. He signed an ELC beginning next year, but is on the B-Sens roster thanks to an Amateur Try-Out agreement. With two games in hand and a three-point lead on the fifth place WBS Penguins and only six games to go on the schedule, Binghamton seems to have a good hold on home-ice advantage in the first round. Yet, trailing third place Syracuse by only one game, it seems unlikely that the team will sit back and take a breather at any point this year. Hammond may just be along for the ride.
With Elmira in the playoffs, Binghamton headed to the playoffs and superstition preventing Sens fans from overt speculation during this slide, this has proven to be a productive year for development in the system. Moreover, with only Jordan Fransoo's Victoria Royals missing the playoffs, every CHL prospect has had the chance to play in their post-season. Jakub Culek's Cape Breton Screaming Eagles missed the playoffs, but then he had been injured and not playing for them since November, when his weird season just insisted on getting weirder. Ottawa has since assigned him to Binghamton, where he has yet to play. We'll see if his shoulder injury prevents any return. In the NCAA, Ottawa saw some good production by Jeff Costello with Notre Dame. Timothy Boyle's Union College also reached, but Boyle didn't see any action in the tournament round. The freshman should expect a bigger role moving forward.
The Kitchener Rangers have dropped the first two games against the London Knights. Matt Puempel's season could be in trouble. Owen Sound and Plymouth are knotted at one-- the longer that round goes on, the better. At the end of it, one of Stefan Noesen or Cody Ceci's seasons will be finished. Noesen will turn pro (AHL, I'm not roster speculating) next year. All signs point to Ceci doing the same. Ceci would be an overager if he returned to the Attack, I believe.
In the QMJHL, Francois Brassard and the Quebec Remparts are even at one in the second round. Rouyn-Noranda lit up Brassard in the first game of the series and he was pulled before the game was through. He bounced back in Game 2 and stopped all but two that were directed at the Quebec net. They won the game 4-2. Brassard can just count himself lucky that they have yet to face the ridiculously stacked Halifax Mooseheads, who are up 2-0 on Gatineau, with an aggregate goal count of 12-0. Any fan of a team with a high first round pick will likely be caught salivating while watching that team make a trip to the Memorial Cup, which seems quite likely at this point.
Chris Driedger and the Calgary Hitmen are currently up 2-0 on the Red Deer Rebel in the second round of the WHL playoffs. Or at least they were as of this writing. Meanwhile, Troy Rutkowski and the Portland Winterhawks are up 2-0 on Jared Cowen's former Spokane Chiefs. The battle of offensive, native-based team names saw St. Louis Blues prospect light the lamp with a hat-trick in their last meeting.
Coming into last week, neither Binghamton nor Ottawa had lost three games in a row in regulation. Binghamton hadn't lost three games in a row period, regardless of overtime or regulation. So, it was almost fitting in this weekend of misfires that both runs come to an end. The Sens and B-Sens are on four and three game losing streaks respectively.