Bingo Bites: Is Goaltending A Concern Heading Into The New Season?
As the Binghamton Senators take the ice for their season opener against the Syracuse Crunch on Oct 10, there will be two untested goaltenders available for the home ice battle.
Ideally you want your team to begin the season with a prospect goalie and a veteran to lend a ear providing some guidance along the way. Kinda along the lines of what Barry Brust did for Robin Lehner during the Calder Cup run of 2011 for the B-Sens. But this coming season in Binghamton, there is no such thing, as two rookies will be at it with a combined ten games of experience at the pro level, all belonging to Chris Driedger. None for Matt O'Connor.
Ten games between the two! Driedger does possess a quick glove and good reflexes, while the big guy O'Connor arrives with much success at the college level but is unproven in the pros.
Our one and only veteran is 28 year old Scott Greenham (19-11-3 2.77 GAA, 0.916 SV%) and he will most likely be with the affiliate in the ECHL, the Evansville IceMen. Greenham has been a role model of positive attitude in handling what could've been a very delicate situation after being sent down last year in order to make room for newly signed veteran Peter Mannino (which is still puzzling in reflecting back), and not once has he complained or refused to report. Matter of fact, Greenham wanted to return after his current contract expired and his request was met with a new AHL one-year, two-way contract signed during the off-season.
Of course, this could all turn upside down with the option of O'Connor being sent to Indiana for some games at the start and Greenham up, but with how OC desired to be here in the Ottawa organization and not with other competing clubs in the NHL, I highly doubt that will happen. His new contract should also support that.
Ottawa's goaltender coach Rick Wamsley will again have to play a heavy role in both goalies' development, like he has in the past with Andrew Hammond and the recently departed Lehner. He will surely be in town more than ever this season.
After Driedger's early problems last season, including possibly showing up out of shape at camp which may have led to his demotion to Evansville, it seems he got what Wamsley had been preaching as the season progressed. He ended up winning his last six games for the B-Sens and will likely be the opening night starter, as big Matt will take the seat in the back-up role and experience first hand the difference from what he's accustomed to at the collegiate level.
With two inexperienced goaltenders, the defense will have to dig deep in not only the beginning of the season but to be involved in an important role going forward with an emphasis on positional play and puck control. Hopefully the redefined defense will play an improvement over last season's disaster that played a big part in why the club was rated at the very bottom of the league in many categories.
Driedger, the 6' 3" 21-year-old, was a third-round pick in 2012, and has a mission to prove that he belongs in the AHL after last season's demotion. His numbers last season for the IceMen club were 8-27-4, but bounced back, going 6-0-0 to finish out his year for the B-Sens.
O'Connor was splendid during his BU days, as the 23-year-old Toronto native ended up with a sparkling record of 25-4-4, 2.18 GAA and a 0.927 SV% in completing his third season for the Terriers.
Early favorite is Driedger getting the bulk of the games out of the chute, and to see a spot appearance here and there for O'Connor as he gets adjusted to the pro level for the B-Sens.
With training camp due to start in less than three weeks here in Bingo, the focus for O'Connor will be in adjusting to a faster pace versus the college game. We'll see how well Driedger responds as the opening night guy in between the pipes, and we'll have to gauge his ability to run with it after his string of six consecutive victories closing out last season for Binghamton.
* Insert Courtesy of Alicia Strauch.