This team needs goaltender Chris Driedger to play on a regular basis if there is any shot of them making the playoffs this season and tonight he showed why.
With Matt O’Connor up in Ottawa, the seldom used Driedger (4-4-2-1, 2.93 GAA, 0.885 SV%) made 25 saves en-route to a 3-1 win by the Binghamton Senators over the visiting Toronto Marlies on Wednesday. He was stellar in his performance down the stretch that was the difference maker on a one goal game. We haven’t seen that out of O’Connor at all, as no Bronx Cheers was required tonight for the tender between the pipes.
With the win, the Sens (11-17-2-1) moved into a virtual tie for fifth place with the Rochester Americans and Utica Comets, as it tightens up in the North Division with all three currently three points behind the Marlies in fourth.
Toronto struck first as standout forward Kasperi Kapanen recorded his team leading 14th goal of the season, as he buried a one-timer from the circle off a backhanded feed from Kerby Rychel near the net, as Driedger and the defense were somewhat complexed on what was transitioning. The Sens would answer though 1:25 after, on defenseman Ben Harpur’s first goal of the year with his wrister from the blueline that caught the back of the net behind Toronto’s goalie Garret Sparks.
In the second 20 minutes, Sens’ rookie prospect Francis Perron scored his fifth of the season on his first game back after suffering a hit that forced him to miss the last three games. It was the usual, lethal wrister from the circle that gave Binghamton the one goal lead as the puck went high, glove side past Sparks.
That would be all the scoring left tonight, but before Max McCormick’s empty netter late in the third period, as Driedger came through the clutch and the defense responded well with support in front clearing away traffic. His toe save on Marlies’ rookie defenseman Andrew Nielsen’s slapper from his blueline was a beauty, followed by the flash of the glove on Toronto’s forward Andreas Johnsson’s one-timer from inside the blueline. No screens as an excuse in letting that one in.
Driedger was incredibly smooth and positionally sound tonight with his rebounds at a minimum, as the home team took this one by a score of 3-1.
POST GAME NOTES
- Senators were down 5x3 on the PK for 1:41 in the middle frame, but McCormick, defensemen Guy Lepine and Michael Kostka all came through doing a great job in killing it off while protecting a one goal lead.
- However the power play continues to rear it’s ugly head going 0/4 tonight. It’s just the same shit, different day with bitter results that has been a season long issue, with the lack of set-ups and/or structure(s) in place.
- Great to see Perron back in the line-up and picking off where he left off with his patented snipe from the circle.
- This team plays better in not having to worry about giving up late goals and concentrates on what they are suppose to do in man-to-man coverage when Driedger is in net. There is an unheralded level of confidence in him and he has the ability to be in the top 5 in the league that this organization continues to ignore. It’s a crime to say the least.
- Jack Rodewald’s four game goal streak came to an end, but not before he was oh so close in 4 or 5 shot attempts. He just has that uncanny knack around the net that is fun to watch.
- Toronto’s roster filled with ex-Sens with Colin Greening & Milan Michalek with Tobias Lindberg in the background. All that was missing was Brooks Laich and Jeff Glass, as they both didn’t make the trip. Would've been awesome to see Glass again, and I’ll leave it at that.
- Roster moves; Casey Bailey called-up earlier today to fill in for the injured Zack Smith. O’Connor is still in Ottawa serving as the back-up with fellow netminder Andrew Hammond out until at least mid-January. Also on a note of interest, Rodewald was signed to a new AHL SPC today with his PTO about to expire, and was rewarded with his placement on the first line. For more on him, check out my BSens Profile article published this past Monday.
- Akeson-Varone-Rodewald, McCormick-Paul-Blunden, Perron-Nehring-Robinson, Krushelnyski- -Gagne. Englund/Kostka, Sieloff/Harpur, Rumble/Carlisle, Lepine. Rupert and Flanagan injured, Doornbosch and Stortini healthy scratches.
Binghamton’s next game will be the annual New Year’s Eve bash On Saturday as they begin the party with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins @ 6:05pm. Driedger’s biggest test this season against the best record in the AHL.