Now that enough time has passed that we at Silver Seven can reflect on the season without the bitterness of defeat fresh in our minds, it's time for 2013 report cards.
Nine members on staff assigned grades for each player on the Ottawa Senators roster, providing us with aggregate final grades. And yes, playoff performances do factor.
Up first: goaltenders.
The only former Ottawa Senator to get a report card, Bishop receives special recognition because he played a much more significant role than Kaspars Daugavins and the 6th-round draft pick traded to Minnesota.
Bishop was on a one-way contract, making him the default backup for Craig Anderson despite being third on the depth chart. After a horrible start against (of all teams) Tampa Bay, Bishop appeared to settle down, letting in only two goals in his next two games (but going 1-1, because goal support isn't important). After Anderson's injury, he was thrown into the spotlight. With so many injuries already, at that point Craig Anderson was the Senators. How would Bishop fare when suddenly under intense pressure? A 6-2 record highlighted by a ridiculous 44-save performance against Montreal on February 25.
Bishop's only failing was that he was the weakest of Ottawa's three goaltenders. He played well enough that Tampa Bay traded Cory Conacher and a draft pick for the Senators third-string goalie. Without Bishop's contributions this season, it's likely the Senators would not have made the playoffs. Good luck in Tampa Bay, Ben.
Highest grade: A-
Lowest grade: B
Robin Lehner posted a 2.20 GAA and a .936 save percentage, the latter putting him second in the NHL and, if not for games played minimums, would be the 6th-best season in NHL history. Very impressive numbers, especially for someone in his first full season in the league. He dominated the AHL, matching his NHL statistics despite a second half where his top defencemen kept ending up in the league above him. When Craig Anderson went down with an injury, Lehner got the call-up. He never went back down.
Lehner's one real flaw was his record: 5-3-4. Despite only allowing 27 goals in his 12 appearances, he couldn't put together many wins, largely because the depleted team in front of him could only score 32 goals. In his first five games, he didn't put up a save percentage lower than .933, yet suffered four overtime losses. A 4-2 loss to Buffalo was the only game he had a save percentage lower than .900 all season, as much a testament to Lehner's performance as to the lack of depth on Ottawa's defence.
He finished the season 13th in Calder Trophy voting with a third and a fourth-place vote, the highest ranking of any goaltender.
Bonus Classic Stat: Lehner played all five games against the Bruins (a whopping 42% of his starts), going 1-2-2. He was 4-1-2 against non-Boston teams. Of his 22 career NHL starts, 7 have been against the Bruins.
Highest grade: A+
Lowest grade: B+
If these grades were based on the regular season alone, this grade would easily be an A+. Unfortunately for Craig Anderson, we take playoffs into consideration. Let's compare:
Regular season: 12-9-2, 1.69 GAA, .941 SV%
Round 1 vs. Montreal: 4-1, 1.79 GAA, .950 SV%
Round 2 vs. Pittsburgh: 1-4, 4.32 GAA, .884 SV%
Notice an outlier?
But let's be honest for a moment. If not for Craig Anderson, the Ottawa Senators don't have a hope at making the playoffs. There wouldn't have been a season for Ben Bishop to keep afloat. Anderson was the most valuable player on the team and it isn't even close. As Anderson went, so went the Senators, and there is nothing more indicative of that than the second round against Pittsburgh.
Not only did Craig Anderson finish first in the NHL in GAA and save percentage, he had one of the best seasons in the history of the league. His GAA of 1.69 ties Miikka Kiprusoff's 2003-04 for second all-time and puts him only behind Brian Elliott's (!) 1.56 last season as the best in the last 70 years. Meanwhile, his save percentage of .941 is the new NHL record, usurping incumbent Brian Elliott's (!!) .940 from 2011-12.
If not for his midseason injury, Anderson would likely be a shoe-in for the Vezina Trophy. He ended up 4th in the voting, earning 3 first-place votes from the 30 NHL general managers. Anderson also finished 12th for the Hart Trophy as league MVP with a second-place vote and a fourth-place vote. Interestingly, that was actually Anderson's second-best finish for the award. He was 9th in 2009-10 while with the Colorado Avalanche.
It's doubtful "Andy Ice" will ever match this year's numbers, but his lockout season will go down as one for the ages and will never be forgotten by Senators fans.
Highest grade: A+
Lowest grade: A