From the nineteenth of October through to the seventh of November, the Binghamton Senators were able to scrape together just two wins, edging out their opponents in one-goal games. Many of us wrung our hands in controlled concern: after all, Binghamton hockey and the performance of our prospects was to be one of the saving graces of these hockey deprived months. Fast forward three weeks and the B-Sens have not dropped a game since, winning eight in a row. That's good enough to double last season's best run and it has pushed Bingo into fourth in the East, two points shy and with two games in hand of the first place Syracuse Crunch (whom they handily beat on Sunday). To further emphasize the strength of their recent tear, the B-Sens have scored four or more goals in four of the last eight and only once allowed more than two (Friday night against Adirondack). Yesteryear's defensive defender in Luke Richardson is turning out a defensively responsible group as a coach and the Paul MacLean-esque speed and skating-based offence is starting to show up in a big way. Here is a recap of the team's latest two performances:
Binghamton 7, Adirondack 4:
- The game started with pressure being applied more heavily by Adirondack, but things turned towards the Senators when Silfverberg took a desperate swing at a bouncing puck, knocking it into the Adirondack zone just as Cannone squeezed through two defenders. Cannone went in alone and put the puck through the five-hole of a surprised Munroe. Cannone has been missing for parts of this season, as five points through the previous sixteen games isn't much of a case for top-nine viability.
- If there is one skill in which Lehner's ability is obviously greater than Bishop's (we haven't seen Bishop throw fists yet) it is in stickhandling. And there were few times where that was more obvious than a first period dump-in while Adirondack was on the powerplay. A harmless puck was misplayed by Bishop who, stranded away from his crease, was forced to take a tripping penalty to avert a goal. Bishop turned out to be the B-Sens biggest offender in the first, drawing another penalty towards the end of the period, while protesting one against Andre Benoit. Neither Bishop nor Bingo's awesome play-by-play commentator, Grady Whittenburg, understood the additional two. After referee Hebert sent Benoit to the box and Hoffman went off on behalf of Bishop, Whittenburg rhetorically begged of Hebert, "why does Bishop get an unsportsmanlike conduct? For arguing the high-sticking against captain Benoit? Seriously?" The AHL is great.
- A 2-on-1 saucer pass from Jessiman to Benoit gave Binghamton the 2-0 lead and, strikingly, their seventh shorthanded goal of the season.
- On the Binghamton broadcasts, Grady Whittenburg reminds his listeners at every powerplay opportunity that ten dollars will be donated for every goal to a particular charity. It stood at a measly ninety dollars after the first powerplay. Then, only four seconds after the Phantoms were assessed another penalty, Binghamton struck again. Ten more dollars! Triple digits!
- A lot has been clicking for Luke Richardson's team on this win streak, but the powerplay has not been one of them. Yet, when Mike Hoffman took a blast from the left point that was tipped by Jakob Silfverberg, it gave Binghamton their second powerplay goal in as many games. Sometimes, it just seems like everything is working for a team, and that time is now. How else do you explain one of the worst powerplays in North America putting up two goals in ten seconds?
- Both Hugh Jessiman and Andre Benoit had three points after the first period. That's quite something for Jessiman, whose offensive impact has otherwise faded over the past few weeks. Seriously: Jessiman increased his point production by 150% in the opening twenty against Adirondack.
- Maybe it's something about that goal he had against Ottawa in the Flyers 7-goal excess, but I cannot stand Harry Zolnierczyk. He did score twice in this game, because in spite of my feelings about him, he's a competent hockey player.
- The game would stay close throughout, with Binghamton always keep their nose in front, eventually jumping from 5-4 to their eventual 7-4 win. The dominance wasn't all-around: Bingo found twine on just under one in every four shots. The Phantoms, on the other hand, threw everything they could against the surging B-Sens, but were stymied on 45 of the 49 they directed at Ben Bishop.
Binghamton 5, Syracuse 2:
- Chaos in front of the net saw Shane Prince fire a puck off the post. It would take a fortuitous bounce towards Stephane da Costa, who buried his first of the season. His second would come courtesy of a terrific pass from behind the night from Cole Schneider. Schneider, for his part, has emerged as a reliable option for Bingo, and has posted five points through his first nine games of the season. He added a helper on da Costa's hat-trick goal, which was a shot the kids might label as "bar-down". I would just say it hit the crossbar and went in.
- One of the notable aspects of Binghamton's turnaround is the much improved play of one Jacob Silver Berg (spelling?) who has stood out on both sides of the puck. Before the last few weeks, Sens fans had seen only glimpses of Silver Berg's reputed two-way ability. Interestingly, since the team has started winning, he has stood out in more ways than one: as a dependable penalty killer and a dynamic offensive threat. Correlation! He showcased that Sunday against the Crunch, taking a chip feed off the boards at the Binghamton blueline from Pat Cannone and, several galloping strides later, firing the puck high corner on the glove-hand side.
- A big game Sunday helped to boost his totals, but Shane Prince has made a quick transition to the AHL, in spite of injury. Through ten games, he's put up six points.
- Mark Borowiecki hasn't allowed his new privileged and anointed status as 'potential 5/6 defender' by the organization sway him from using his fists to defend his teammates. With no more oft-sat Francis Lessard, BoroCop has remained the number one candidate to throw down. However, when the Crunch's Eric Neilson kept wailing on Borowiecki while the latter was turtled on the ground, I couldn't help but wonder if Robin Lehner was going to storm down from wherever he was this weekend and take to the ice. Even while being constrained by two linesmen, Neilson was taking swings. Neilson then skated over towards the Bingo bench to see if there were any other takers. If the AHL doesn't announce a suspension after that tomfoolery, I'm calling Shanahan.
- Speaking of Robin Lehner and fists, the team has not specifically said why he was absent for both games this weekend, which has allowed for some pretty hilarious rumors to abound. I hope they're true. Either way, Ben Bishop started both games and, obviously, was able to secure wins in both of them. As positive an impression as Lehner's start has left, there is no better controversy than an AHL goaltending controversy, and Bishop's improved play should slowly start to put things in that direction.
Binghamton's next game will be this Friday, as they'll play host to the Pirates of Portland, Maine.