Senators News: April 30th

Varada compares Ottawa to Montreal and concludes:

It’s obviously going to be a close series, with perhaps a small edge given to the Habs when you consider that the gap between their ability to score and ability to defend is not quite as large as the gap between Ottawa’s ability to defend and ability to score. Add home ice advantage, and the Habs probably should take the series in six or seven… …on the other hand, Ottawa isn’t even supposed to be here. They’ve spent most of the season dealing with ridiculous injuries, and even crafted a team identity around it (#peskysens). Their goaltenders have a tendency to get hot and stay hot. Their defensive stats are legit, but their offensive stats reflect, in part, a season without their Norris Trophy winner–and he’s back now. Looking only at the stats, this might not be the same Ottawa team Montreal faced.

Nichols offers a brief snapshot of the Sens-Habs match-up.

Tim Wharnsby predicts the Sens will win in seven.

-Apparently Glen Healy felt inspired to inflame Sens fans as according to Senschirp he said:

Cute season for Ottawa. Lovely story lines. But this won’t be a series.

And:

[Erik Karlsson is] a one trick pony.

Healy isn’t an idiot so clearly he wants to put the fan base on tilt.  It’s the kind of thing that’s given Don Cherry and Mike Milbury their careers, so there’s some method to the madness, but fans shouldn’t allow themselves to be baited.  It’s one thing to get angry or exasperated by actual sports journalists, but that’s not what Healy is so he should just be ignored.

Allen Panzeri writes about Paul MacLean’s success this year.

Bobby Kelly takes a look at Binghamton’s first two playoff games without including comments about the officiating (something B-Sens fans have complained about); he gives Chris Wideman particular praise.

-Speaking of Binghamton, Stefan Noesen is on his way to join the team (no official transfer notice, just Noesen Tweeting out the fact).

Hockey’s Future offers their organisational rankings for prospects and slots Ottawa in second, saying:

Strengths: The Ottawa Senators prospect pool is loaded with forward depth. They have players at all three forward positions with the potential to be top-six scoring forwards. Most of the Senators forward prospects feature a strong two-way game, as well. Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg are fitting in nicely at the NHL level and are being counted on to provide offense and play responsibly in their own end. The Senators have also benefited from the strong play of netminder Robin Lehner and defenseman Patrick Wiercioch. In general, the organization has done an excellent job of making sure they have good depth at forward and defense.
Weaknesses: Although Lehner is one of the top goaltending prospects in the world, after him the Senators lack depth in net. They could use another top offensive center as well now that they are close to losing Zibanejad to graduation.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Mika Zibanejad, C; 2. Jakob Silfverberg, LW/RW; 3. Robin Lehner, G; 4. Cory Conacher, LW; 5. Stefan Noesen, RW.

The top-five is virtually identical to the one composed before the season began (Conacher has simply been inserted).  One can debate whether Chris Driedger and Francois Brassard comprise adequate goaltending depth or not (Andrew Hammond is not considered, perhaps because of his age or because HF hasn’t had someone covering the Sens for months), but their prospect list reminds me of an irritation I have with their guidelines: four of the five “top” players are regular NHL players, so counting them as prospects seems pointless to me.  I understand they will disappear from the list next season as they hit the required games played, but I wish HF would apply a little common sense in order to create more meaningful lists of prospects.

NHL.com‘s Adam Kimelman, Mike G. Morreale, and Steven Hoffner offer their mock drafts and have Ottawa selecting: Ryan Hartman, Zach Nastasiuk, and Max Domi.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Ottawa’s Final Games (41-48)

Ottawa has finished the season and it’s time to take stock and see how the team has performed over their final eight game.  The Sens went 5-3-0 (here’s the previous ten games) which means they finish 6th in the conference and 4th in their division.  The team’s 116 goals is thirteenth in the conference while their 104 goals against is first (and second in the league, behind only Chicago).  Ottawa’s powerplay fell to 20th overall (15.9%); and their penalty killing finished first overall (88.0%).  The Sens dropped to the 10th most penalized team in the league; they also dropped to the 15th best team in terms of 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio (1.03).

Player’s stats (INJ=games missed due to injury, SCR= scratched, SUS=suspended, AHL=games in the AHL):

Kyle Turris 8-4-1-5 +4
Sergei Gonchar 8-1-4-5 +3
Erik Karlsson 3-0-4-4 +2 INJ 5
Milan Michalek 8-2-2-4 +3
Cory Conacher 8-1-3-4 +4
Daniel Alfredsson 8-0-4-4 +3
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 8-2-1-3 +2
Colin Greening 8-0-3-3 -1
Chris Phillips 8-0-3-3 -2
Patrick Wiercioch 6-1-1-2 +4 SCR 2
Jakob Silfverberg 8-2-0-2 +2
Erik Condra 8-1-1-2 +1
Guillaume Latendresse 6-0-1-1 -2 SCR 2
Jared Cowen 7-1-0-1 +1 INJ 1
Mika Zibanejad 8-1-0-1 Even
Marc Methot 8-0-1-1 Even
Chris Neil 8-1-0-1 -4
Zack Smith 8-0-0-0 -3
Eric Gryba 7-0-0-0 -3 SCR 1
Matt Kassian 2-0-0-0 Even SCR 6
Andre Benoit 1-0-0-0 +1 SCR 7
Jim O’Brien (scratched)
Peter Regin (scratched)
Mike Lundin (scratched)
Jason Spezza (injured)

Craig Anderson 4-3-0 1.69 .941
Robin Lehner 1-0-0 2.20 .936

Various thoughts: while Turris lead the team in points over this stretch the real offensive catalyst was Karlsson.  It was a rough stretch of games for Smith (-3), Gryba (-3), and Neil (a team worst -4), while Turris and Wiercioch lead things on the plus side of things (+4).  Zibanejad‘s offence production slipped, while Conacher‘s remained steady despite reduced ice time.  I thought Anderson started too much and his play hasn’t fully rounded into form, while Lehner ended his season on a strong note.  Life can’t be any worse for after thoughts O’Brien, Regin, and Lundin, two of whom are certainly on their way out of the organisation while something is clearly up with O’Brien.  I feel badly for Benoit who has been a solid citizen all year, but is scratched in favour of virtually anybody else.  We have seen the last (presumably) of Kassian in a Sens jersey.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)-

Senators News: April 29th; Ottawa 4, Boston 2

-Ottawa defeated Boston 4-2 last night to clinch seventh place and face Montreal; Robin Lehner made 34 saves for the win, while Erik Condra, Jared Cowen, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Kyle Turris (empty-net) scored the goals.  The Sens are a different team when they have the lead and although they gave up a 2-0 advantage they were able to pull out the victory.  Ottawa has secured the best possible match-up given the scenarios last night so they have to be happy.  Here’s the boxscore.

The Hockey News offers its Eastern Conference preview and gives Ottawa the edge over the Habs (seeing the team has having better goaltending, defense, special teams, and coaching).

Pierre LeBrun goes through the Ottawa-Montreal match-up and see’s the Habs winning in a long series.

NHL.com previews the series without making predictions, but says for the Sens to win they need Craig Anderson at pre-injury form and Erik Karlsson to be all he can be.  One other note: amusingly they include future AHLer Mike Lundin as part of Ottawa’s blueline.

Sylvain St-Laurent thinks the Sens will win in six, believing the pressure of being the favourite will get to the Habs.

-Here’s my preview of the series.

-Habs blogger Andrew Berkshire see’s Fenwick monster Montreal dominating the Habs (even suggesting Montreal is a worse match-up for Ottawa than Boston or Pittsburgh).

-Binghamton lost 3-2 to Wilkes-Barre again last night (minus the overtime of the first game); Nathan Lawson made 21 saves in the loss, while Matt Puempel and Chris Wideman scored the goals.  The B-Sens once again played from behind and have yet to lead in the series.  I wonder if Luke Richardson will make some tweaks to his lineup before game three.  Here’s the boxscore.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Ottawa Playoff Preview

Ottawa finished the season with a 25-17-6 record, good for seventh in the conference.  They face the Montreal Canadiens (29-14-5) as their first round opponent, who they met four times in the regular season finishing with a 2-1-1 record.  Here’s a look at each game:

January 30th 5-1 Ottawa (boxscore)
The Sens gave up the first goal of the game, but then rolled over Montreal in the only lopsided match between the teams this season.  Jason Spezza and Jared Cowen were the only key members of the roster absent from the game; Anderson got the win, while Budaj took the loss.

February 3rd 2-1 Montreal (boxscore)
Ottawa took the early lead (Jakob Silfverberg), but could not come back after the Habs went up 2-1 in the first (the now departed Erik Cole with the winner).   Spezza and Cowen were the only key members of the roster absent from the game; Anderson took the loss, while Price earned the win.

February 25th 2-1 (SO) Ottawa (boxscore)
The Sens scored first (David Dziurzynski), but the game had to be settled by the shootout.  Spezza, Cowen, Milan Michalek, and Erik Karlsson were all absent from the game; Ben Bishop got the win, while Price took the loss.

March 13th 4-3 (SO) Montreal (boxscore)
The Habs gave up 1-0 and 3-1 leads to the Sens, but won the game in the shootout.  Spezza, Cowen, Michalek, Karlsson and Craig Anderson were all absent from the game; Robin Lehner suffered the loss, while Price got the win.

A few things stick out from the summary: no lead is safe (the team scoring first is 2-2 and one of those win’s required a shootout); Anderson has only played the Habs twice; Price has a winning record against the Sens; Ottawa has yet to play Montreal with a fully healthy roster (their playoff lineup is the healthiest they’ve been against Montreal missing only Spezza).  There’s no reason not to expect the series to be close and while the normal cliche would be that it all boils down to goaltending, I think goal scoring is the key factor here.  It won’t matter how well Anderson plays if Ottawa can’t score.  On the Montreal side of things there’s a lot of emphasis put on the absence of hardnosed defender Alexei Emelin and clearly he’s an important cog on the blueline for the Habs.

Who will win?  I see the match-up as a toss-up, but I’ll give the edge to Ottawa as I have to think the dam has to burst on their horrific shooting percentage at some point.  Sens in seven.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: April 28th; Ottawa 1 Philadelphia 2

-Ottawa lost 2-1 to the Flyers last night in a game they dominated (out shooting Philly 44-25), but they simply could not score enough.  Craig Anderson was good, but not great in net (the trend since he returned from injury).  Kyle Turris scored the only goal.  The curious addition of Matt Kassian into the lineup was a non-factor, but I have to wonder if the team’s scoring woes will finally see Eric Gryba (who only played 11:07) scratched in favour of Patrick Wiercioch.  I was at the game and the Sens had a multitude of opportunities to score–they hit at least 3 posts beyond many other quality chances.  If they continue to play this way I think eventually the goals are going to come.  Here’s the boxscore; Scott had the scoring chances 20/12.  I can’t agree with Mark Parisi when he writes:

This was a game where you never had a strong feeling like the Sens were going to win, and that’s concerning. Passes were off all night, and players constantly had to take that extra second to corral the puck. They’re supposed to be doing everything more quickly, but for the most part, teammates aren’t giving each other a chance to execute quickly.

Mark’s feelings don’t jive with what I’ve seen, nor is there a statistical backing to match his notion of bad passing etc (something that should result in a large number of turnovers and poor puck possession numbers).

-The Sens play Boston (28-13-6) tonight; the Bruins are lead by Brad Marchand (36 points) and backstopped by Tuukka Rask (19-9-5 1.97 .930).  The game is important to both teams, as the Bruins will get second place in the conference with a win.  These are the scenarios for Ottawa: if they lose in regulation they finish eighth and play Pittsburgh; if they lose in OT or a shootout they finish seventh and face Boston; if they win they finish seventh and face Montreal.  The best case scenario for the Sens is clearly the third option.

Darren M writes an amusing post about fan-favourite Matt Kassian.

Ken Campbell dismisses the idea of late season momentum being a factor in the playoffs:

Over the past 25 seasons, only twice has the team with the best record in the last 10 games of the season won the Stanley Cup – the New York Rangers in 1994 and the Calgary Flames in 1989. In fact, the team with the best record in the league in the last 10 games is more likely to lose in the first round of the playoffs than it is to win the Cup.  Over the past 20 years, the team with the best record in the final 10 games of the season has lost in the first round of the playoffs 11 times, including four times in the past five years. It has lost in the second round 10 times, in the conference final three times and in the Stanley Cup final twice. (Yes, that adds up to 26 teams, but there were several years where multiple teams were tied for the best record over the last 10 games.)  And while it’s not advisable to completely suck wind down the stretch, it certainly isn’t a requirement. Over the past 20 playoffs, the Stanley Cup winner has gained an average of only 12.2 of a possible 20 points in its final 10 games. In 2002, the Detroit Red Wings were a putrid 1-3-6 down the stretch, which was a worse record than that posted by all other playoff teams that season. When the Montreal Canadiens won it all in 1992-93, they posted just a 4-6-0 record in their last 10.  In fact, no Stanley Cup winner over the past 20 years has produced a record better than 7-2-1. Last season, the Los Angeles Kings were furious in the second half of the season, but were actually just 5-2-3 in their final 10. Seven teams that made the playoffs had better records than that, including the 8-1-1 Vancouver Canucks, who fell to the Kings in the first round.

It’s a counter intuitive thought, but if Campbell’s numbers are correct it’s interesting to see that momentum doesn’t actually to exist in the NHL when it comes to results at the end of the regular season.

-Binghamton lost 3-2 to Wilkes-Barre in overtime, despite rallying from an early 2-0 deficit.  Nathan Lawson made 30 saves in the loss, while Shane Prince and Mark Stone scored the goals.  Here’s the boxscore.  The B-Sens play the Penguins again this afternoon.

-Ken Campbell (link above) echoes my issue with the NHL’s Central Scouting rankings:

The major reason why I pay almost no attention to the NHL’s Central Scouting rankings is that in this day and age, they still separate their rankings among North American skaters, North American goalies, European skaters and European goalies. How does that help you figure out where players are ranked? Really, the NHL’s scouting bureau has to get with the 21st century on this one…

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: April 27th

-Ottawa plays Philadelphia (22-22-3) tonight; the Flyers are lead by Claude Giroux (47 points) and backstopped by Steve Mason (6-8-1 2.68 .911).  Craig Anderson will get the start while Matt Kassian slides into the lineup, replacing Guillaume Latendresse.  The teams have split their season series thus far (1-1), but while the game means nothing to Philadelphia, a win would put Ottawa in sixth place in the conference.

Travis Yost takes a look at the Sens lousy shooting percentage this season and offers up the following:

I think the ability of this team can kind of get lost in the fact that this club as a whole was mired in the shooting department like no other. When I say no other, I mean no other. The 2012-2013 Ottawa Senators have the worst even-strength shooting percentage of any club to reach the playoffs since at least 2007 [and almost certainly longer], converting at an abhorrent 5.94% rate. There’s some severe lack of puck luck in there, but I think a lack of individual scoring talent is probably contributory to some extent.

So, how does a team win hockey games when they can’t score goals? It would seem to me that potential common denominators here are (a) strong possession time; and (b) strong goaltending. With one or the other, you’re leaving things in doubt. The 12/13 New Jersey Devils are like a case study in this: elite possession metrics, but one that was victimized by poor shooting percentages and awful goaltending.

The Score-Adjusted Fenwick [stat] is most important of all, though. We know driving possession correlates strongly with winning long-term, and the best way to ascertain what teams are controlling the puck is by looking at even-strength shot attempt differentials. Vic Ferrari’s already shown the strength of the relationship.

It’s an interesting view and aligns well with the King’s Stanley Cup win (a low-scoring team with high possession numbers).

Scott offers some praise for Jean-Gabriel Pageau:

He’s crushing the possession game, playing tough minutes, over 50% on faceoffs, and starts in the defensive zone more than anyone else on team.

-Binghamton opens their playoff series against Wilkes-Barre tonight (here’s my preview); Nathan Lawson is expected to start.  I haven’t seen lines posted for Binghamton, but if they remain the same as the last practice they are: PuempelDa CostaStone; SchneiderDziurzynskiGrant; CowickHamiltonRobinson; PrinceCannoneJessiman.  The blueline was not settled, but will feature a combination of: Ceci, Borowiecki, New, Wideman, Claesson, Lebda, Eckford (my guess is that New will sit).

Stefan Noesen‘s junior career ended last night and he’s expected to join the B-Sens for their playoff push.  If he plays I’d expect him to bump out someone like Wacey Hamilton or Buddy Robinson.

Luke Richardson has an interesting opinion on taking penalties:

If you take a hard penalty, you hit a guy and get a roughing penalty or interference penalty, we will gladly kill those off but it’s those lazy stick penalties that you don’t want to take, the ones where you’re reaching, (or) the ones where your feet are not moving.

This approach gives players like Mark Borowiecki the green light to be physical.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that the NHL has not suffered due to the lockout:

Teams are filling up their buildings to 97.4 percent of capacity, and television  ratings on a national level in the United States and Canada, as well as in local  markets, are up considerably.

As I mentioned during the lockout, there was never going to be a long term impact from the shortened season.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: April 26th; Ottawa 2 Washington 1 (OT)

-Ottawa locked up a playoff spot with a 2-1 overtime victory over Washington last night.  Craig Anderson made 19 saves for the win while Jakob Silfverberg and Sergei Gonchar scored the goals (Ottawa outshot the Capitals 41-20).  Erik Karlsson notched a pair of assists in the win and despite being a half-step slower than his pre-injury form was as vital to the team as ever.  Thoughts: Cory Conacher played a team low 8:53 (drifting into Peter Regin and Jim O’Brien territory); Chris Phillips was undressed by Ovechkin for the Caps lone goal; Jean-Gabriel Pageau looked good in limited ice time; Silfverberg was excellent on both sides of the puck; Kyle Turris was awful on faceoffs.  Here is the boxscore; Scott had the scoring chances 23/9.

Sergei Gonchar, who scored the game winning goal last night, talked about the win:

A lot of guys counted us out of it. We had a lot of injuries in the beginning and I don’t think anybody was believing that we were going to make it. It’s a great feeling because it proves those guys who didn’t believe in us wrong. It was a good feeling. We haven’t been scoring as many goals and to score a game winner to make the playoffs is huge. We’re happy. I’m not just happy I scored a goal, I’m happy we’re going to make it to the playoffs.

Nichols considers Conacher‘s play of late and points out the positives, but clearly (given the rookie’s TOI) he has fallen out of favour with Paul MacLean for the moment.

-All eight playoff teams in the East are set with the Jets losing in regulation last night; positioning is still up in the air, with the Sens able to finish in any of the bottom four positions (sixth is clearly ideal as they would play Washington).

Stu Hackel looks back over the season that was and has this to offer about Ottawa:

That the Senators are even still in the playoff chase — they, too, need a win in their final two contests — is rather astounding considering the horrific run of injuries to their top players. Defensemen Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen,  goalie Craig Anderson, center Jason Spezza, and winger Milan Michalek all missed time. Spezza played in only five games and has yet to come back, but Karlsson miraculously returned to action against the Capitals on April 25 and logged 27:11 of ice time while contributing two assists in Ottawa’s 2-1 win. It’s a tribute to coach Paul MacLean and team leaders like Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Phillips that the Sens didn’t fold and kept pointing forward through their hard times.

Hackel apparently didn’t realise the win against Washington solidified the Sens playoff spot (as the Jets regulation loss would have anyway), but otherwise he’s spot on.

-Here’s my playoff preview for Binghamton.

Adam Proteau discusses officiating and while I don’t agree with his entire point (his sentiment that the current crop is as good as it gets strikes me as giving up on it improving), I do like this:

Now, I will say that this season has had more than its share of terrible/blown calls and I think the amount of obstruction you see on any given night is still far too much.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Binghamton Senators Playoff Preview

Binghamton finished the season with a record of 44-24-8, good for fourth in their conference.  They face the Wilkes-Barre Penguins (42-30-4) as their first round opponent, the team they played most in the regular season (ten games, with Binghamton going 6-4-0).  Here’s a breakdown of the team’s games against each other (I’m following lines at practice in deciding who qualifies as a “current regular” for the playoff match-up, minus New who I see as the seventh defenseman):

October 13th 2-1 Binghamton (boxscore)
Robin Lehner made 35 saves as the B-Sens rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the third to win in regulation (Jeff Zatkoff took the loss)
B-Sens who played who aren’t on the playoff roster: Lehner, Silfverberg, Zibanejad, Cowen, Gryba, Wiercioch, Pageau, Petersson, Hoffman, Benoit
Current regulars who did not play: Lawson, Da CostaSchneider, PrinceLebdaWideman, Ceci, HamiltonRobinson, Puempel

November 7th 0-1 (SO) Wilkes-Barre (boxscore)
Lehner made 32 saves in the loss (Zatkoff earned the win)
Departed B-Sens: Lehner, Silfverberg, ZibanejadWiercioch, Pageau, Petersson, Hoffman, Benoit
Current regulars who did not play: Lawson, Da CostaLebdaCeci, Hamilton, Robinson, Puempel

December 14th 3-1 Binghamton (boxscore)
Ben Bishop made 28 saves for the win (Brad Thiessen took the loss)
Departed B-Sens: Bishop, SilfverbergGryba, Wiercioch, PageauHoffman, Benoit
Current regulars who did not play: LawsonLebda, Ceci, Hamilton, Robinson, Puempel

December 19th 4-3 Binghamton (boxscore)
Lehner made 36 saves for the win; the B-Sens rallied from a three-goal deficit in the third to win in regulation (Zatkoff took the loss)
Departed B-Sens: Lehner, Silfverberg, Gryba, Wiercioch, Pageau, Hoffman, Benoit
Current regulars who did not play: Lawson, Borowiecki, Lebda, Ceci, Hamilton, Robinson, Puempel

January 4th 3-1 Binghamton (boxscore)
Lehner made 43 saves for the win (Zatkoff took the loss); the B-Sens were outshot 44-15
Departed B-Sens: Lehner, Silfverberg, Gryba, Wiercioch, Pageau, Hoffman, Benoit
Current regulars who did not play: Lawson, Claesson, Lebda, Ceci, Hamilton, Robinson, Puempel

January 9th 3-1 Binghamton (boxscore)
Lehner made 31 saves for the win (Zatkoff took the loss); B-Sens outshot 32-16
Departed B-Sens: Lehner, Silfverberg, Gryba, Wiercioch, Pageau, Hoffman, Benoit
Current regulars who did not play: Lawson, Wideman, Lebda, Ceci, Hamilton, Robinson, Puempel

February 12th 5-1 Binghamton (boxscore)
Lehner (filling in for Lawson who was injured early) made 24 saves for the win (Zatkoff was pulled but still took the loss)
Departed B-Sens: LehnerGrybaPageau
Current regulars who did not playDa Costa, StoneCeciRobinson, Puempel

February 16th 5-2 Wilkes-Barre (boxscore)
Lehner made 30 saves in the loss (Thiessen earned the win)
Departed B-Sens: LehnerPageau
Current regulars who did not play: Lawson, Da Costa, Stone, Dziurzynski, Grant, Ceci, Robinson, Puempel

March 27th 4-2 Wilkes-Barre (boxscore)
Nathan Lawson made 30 saves in the loss (Zatkoff earned the win)
Departed B-Sens: Pageau
Current regulars who did not playEckford, Ceci, Robinson, Puempel

March 30th 3-2 (SO) Wilkes-Barre (boxscore)
Lawson made 30 saves in the loss (Zatkoff earned the win)
Departed B-Sens: Pageau
Current regulars who did not play: Eckford, Ceci, Robinson, Puempel

The biggest roster change for Wilkes-Barre throughout the series was the addition of AHL veteran Chad Kolarik (who played in the final four games against Binghamton).  Kolarik (68 points), Trevor Smith (54), Riley Holzapfel (51), and Derek Nesbitt (47) lead the charge offensively for the Penguins.  Beau Bennett is the only player of note who might be returned to Wilkes-Barre from the NHL roster.  There’s no reason to doubt that Jeff Zatkoff will get the start.

Things to note:
-the B-Sens powerplay was abysmal after the initial call-ups for the NHL season (1-25)
-seven of the ten games featured Robin Lehner (and an eighth Ben Bishop), with Nathan Lawson losing both starts and Marc Cheverie not facing the Penguins
-the lineups that faced Wilkes-Barre the first eight games are radically different than the one that will suit up on Saturday
-players available to the B-Sens not included in the “regular” list: Gazley, New, Downing, Sdao, Kramer, Culek, Blood (of these players I think Downing, New, and Sdao could dress at some point)
-if Mike Hoffman gets healthy in time expect him to be added to the lineup
Borowiecki, Dziurzynski, Grant, Cowick, and Cannone were on the Calder Cup winning squad of 2011, although neither Cowick nor Cannone played in the playoffs; Lebda won a Stanley Cup with Detroit

Jonathan Bombulie offers a preview from a Wilkes-Barre perspective while nafsnep (Jason Iacona) grades the Penguins players for their fourth quarter performances.

It’s hard not to see Wilkes-Barre as the favourite in the series, but I expect it to be close regardless of the outcome.  For the B-Sens to have a chance they need Lawson to be healthy and get contributions from young players like Puempel, Ceci, and Robinson.  In terms of a prediction, given the job Luke Richardson has done with his ever changing lineup I’ll stick with Binghamton who will beat Wilkes-Barre in five.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: April 25th

-Ottawa plays Washington (26-18-2) tonight; the Caps are lead by Alexander Ovechkin (53 points) and backstopped by Michal Neuvirth (4-5-1 2.81 .905).  The focus, however, is on Erik Karlsson playing tonight (more on that below).  EK‘s return apparently knocks Patrick Wiercioch out of the lineup (more on that below), but no other changes are expected (I still think Robin Lehner should start instead of Craig Anderson).  Here’s a shout out to Andrew Tupper whose game preview I quite like.

Nichols contemplates the Karlsson return and dislikes the choice to keep Eric Gryba in the lineup over Wiercioch and it’s a sentiment I agree with–I wonders if the reason for picking Gryba is that MacLean wants someone he trusts defensively to play with Chris Phillips.

Michael Aubry tries to pour cold water on Karlsson‘s return by talking to athletic therapist Richard Gregory who says:

I would say he still has a few more hurdles to jump over before he gets in game-ready state. I don’t think we’ll see him playing next week. 10 weeks is fast to be game-ready. But it’s no miracle. He had a healthy Achilles and a healthy foot, so he’s going to be a faster recovery than it would in a tear. Usually it’s six months and it’s a very progressive return. When it comes to the Achilles, conservative is better than aggressive because if you over-stretch the tendon, you lose strength. The health care team isn’t going to take a risk in the first round to maybe ruin his career and tear his tendon. But the more often that he skates with the team, the better for his brain, the better for his body.

Given that Karlsson‘s return is official Gregory’s speculation has to be put aside unless there’s a setback.

Wayne Scanlan looks at the Sens potential opponents (Pittsburgh, Boston, Washington, Montreal, and Toronto) and doesn’t offer any conclusions other than Not Pittsburgh.  I like Scanlan, but you’d think he could have included the team’s record against each opponent (something like this), along with a look at the various scenarios (like what I did yesterday or this).  Regardless, clearly the best opponent for the Sens is Washington–they have the least established goaltending among the five teams and have a history of playoff failures.  Regardless, being in the post-season is reason enough for fans to celebrate.

Adrian Dater offers up his final power rankings of the season and has Ottawa 18th, saying:

These guys could still blow it. The odds do favor them making the postseason,  which would still be a great accomplishment for a team with so many injuries.  And there seems to be real hope that Norris Trophy-winner Erik Karlsson could be  back even before the playoffs. He’s been practicing lately. The Sens lost a  chance at gaining satisfaction over Matt Cooke and the Penguins with a loss at  home on Monday. Cooke bailed out of a chance to fight Chris Neil at the start of  the game, which was probably a smart decision on the smaller Cooke‘s part. He  even got an assist on Tyler Kennedy‘s insurance goal at the end. “We have to get  back to basics,” goalie Craig Anderson said.

The odds of blowing it are extremely slim, but Dater is right that the Sens have been slipping of late.

-Here’s a look at Binghamton’s regular season.

Nathan Lawson was again absent from Binghamton’s practice.  I have to wonder if the B-Sens can beat Wilkes-Barre with Marc Cheverie as the starter.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Binghamton Senators: 2012-13 Regular Season Review

The Binghamton Senators finished 5th in the AHL with a 44-24-8 record for 96 points, which represents a 31-point (and 15 win) improvement over last season (when they were 30th in the league).  The team was 10th in scoring (their 227 goals is 26 more than last year), and 4th in goals against (their 188 goals allowed is 55 less than last season).  No Binghamton player scored more than 38 points, 11 less than Mike Hoffman‘s meagre team-leading total from last season.  Back in October I predicted that Binghamton would finish third in their division and compete for a playoff spot with 38 wins, their fate determined by scoring.  I was spot on that their goaltending and defence would be better (despite Jared Cowen only suiting up for 3 games and Andre Benoit never returning from the NHL), and as it turned out they scored enough to be one of the best teams in the league.  Last season’s team suffered from a subpar group of veterans, but Benoit (for the first half) and Hugh Jessiman were big upgrades on that front.

Throughout the year I posted ten-game segments looking at how Binghamton performed, so here’s a brief recap of the season that was:
The first ten games Binghamton went 4-4-2 with Mike Hoffman, Andre Benoit, and Tyler Eckford leading the way offensively; Patrick Wiercioch was +5, while Fredrik Claesson and Eckford were both -6; Jared Cowen was injured and would only return to the NHL in the final few games of the regular season
The next ten games the team went 9-1-0 with Jakob Silfverberg, Pat Cannone, and Derek Grant leading the way offensively; Cannone was +12; Andre Petersson was injured and would miss the rest of the season
The next ten games the B-Sens went 7-2-1 with Silfverberg, Hoffman, and Benoit leading the way offensively; Cole Schneider and Jean-Gabriel Pageau were +5
The next ten games Binghamton went 6-3-1 with Stephane Da Costa, Corey Cowick, and Mark Stone leading the way offensively; Eric Gryba was +11; Silfverberg, Benoit, and Wiercioch were permanently added to Ottawa’s roster, while Mark Borowiecki also joined it temporarily; Danny New was added to the AHL roster
The next ten games the team went 4-5-1 with Scheider, Shane Prince, and Pageau leading the way offensively; Gryba was +6, while Eckford was -4; Brett Lebda was added to the roster; David Dziurzynski, Grant, Gryba, Borowiecki, Mika Zibanejad, and Da Costa all spent time in the NHL
The next ten games the B-Sens went 6-3-1 with Prince, Pageau, Cowick, and Lebda leading the way offensively; Pageau was +7, while Louie Caporusso was -5; Zibanejad returned to Ottawa permanently, while Stone and Grant spent some time with the parent club; Nick Craven played on an ATO, but was released after four games
The next ten games Binghamton went 4-5-1 with Schneider, Stone, and Prince leading the way offensively; Schneider was +5, while Pageau was -4; Jakub Culek, Andrew Hammond, Michael Sdao, and Buddy Robinson were added to the roster
The final six games saw the team go 4-1-1, with Stone, Cowick, and Cannone leading the way offensively; Chris Wideman was +7; Matt Puempel and Cody Ceci were added to the roster

Here’s a look at how each player performed throughout the season with my analysis and a grade for each player (A=outstanding season, B=above expectations, C=expectations met, D=below expectations, F=well below expectations), for players who played in the NHL I’m only looking at how they did with Binghamton (the only ECHL call-ups included are those whose rights were owned by the organisation or they became regulars; INJ=games missed due to injury, SCR=scratched, FM=fighting majors):

Mark Stone 54-15-23-38 +21 INJ 17 [NHL 4-0-0-0 -1] Grade C
This may seem like an unfair assessment of Stone, but expectations were high so it was going to be difficult for him to play above them.  The adjustment to the pro game came smoothly, although the further transition to the NHL will have to wait until at least next season.  Of the players who weren’t permanently added to the NHL roster, Stone lead the B-Sens in points-per-game (0.70).
Stephane Da Costa 57-13-25-38 +14 INJ 12 [NHL 9-1-1-2 -3] Grade D
I’m not sure that Da Costa really progressed this season; perhaps some intangibles improved, but I expected him to dominant at the AHL-level, but his production actually slipped slightly from last year.
Shane Prince 65-18-17-35 +12 INJ 7 SCR 4 Grade B
Expectations outside my blog were quite high, but I thought Prince was even money to return to junior given the glut of forwards in Binghamton.  Instead he became a key offensive contributor, finishing second on the team in goals.
Cole Schneider 60-17-18-35 +19 FM 1 INJ 4 SCR 12 Grade B
A rocky start for Schneider (who was in and out of the lineup), but he made great strides and became more consistent as the season wore on (24 of his points came from January onward).  The future seems bright for last year’s unheralded NCAA free agent, although I’m not sure how he projects at the next level.
Corey Cowick 72-16-19-35 +8 FM 3 INJ 4 Grade B
After two disappointing seasons as a pro everything came together for Cowick.  Although he didn’t receive a call-up to Ottawa, he finally found the consistency he needed to be an important player in Binghamton.
Jakob Silfverberg 34-13-16-29 +4 [NHL 45-9-9-18 +8] Grade B
Even with high expectations Silfverberg‘s half-season in Binghamton was excellent; he quickly became the catalyst for the team, able to make teammates around him better.
Hugh Jessiman 68-10-19-29 Even FM 7 INJ 8 Grade C
Coming off his most productive AHL campaign, the former first-rounder wasn’t able to give the team the same offensive contribution, but was a useful contributor throughout the season.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 69-7-22-29 +8 FM 1 SCR 1 [NHL 6-1-1-2 +1] Grade B
Like Prince above, I thought there was a good chance that Pageau would return to junior.  Instead he remained on the team and worked his way up from centering the fourth line to being a key offensive player, eventually getting the call from Ottawa.
Brett Lebda (Bin/Roc) 59-3-26-29 -9 FM 1 Grade B
The former NHLer was an inspired pick-up by the organisation who solidified a paper thin blueline once the NHL lockout ended.  He’s not as good as Benoit, but given that he only cost the Sens an AHL contract the dividends are fantastic.
Derek Grant 63-19-9-28 +11 FM 1 INJ 4 [NHL 5-0-0-0 -1] Grade C
Despite earning an NHL call-up, leading the team in goals, and receiving team accolades, I expected more production from Grant.  There’s a lot to like about him, but the ceiling looks a bit lower at the next level.
Mike Hoffman 41-13-15-28 +9 INJ 19 [NHL 3-0-0-0 -1] Grade D
Contract years are typically where offensively gifted prospects will blow-up in the AHL, but that wasn’t the case for Hoffman whose production remained about the same as last year’s.  There’s NHL potential in him (as his call-up illustrates), but I think the top-six ceiling is extremely unlikely.
Pat Cannone 74-10-15-25 +21 FM 1 SCR 2 Grade D
Rewarded with a fat AHL contract after his solid rookie campaign last season, Cannone was a total disappointment, with a third of his production courtesy of a month spent riding Silfverberg‘s coattails.  The Sens tossed him out on the waiver wire in January, but found no takers.
Andre Benoit 34-9-16-25 +3 [NHL 33-3-7-10 -3] Grade C
At the AHL level he was exactly what was expected–absolutely fantastic.
David Dziurzynski 54-4-16-20 +7 FM 5 INJ 3 [NHL 12-2-0-2 -1] Grade C
Firmly established as a checking forward, he’s not an overwhelming talent, but quite a find as a BCHL free agent.
Patrick Wiercioch 32-10-9-19 +10 INJ 1 [NHL 41-5-14-19 +8] Grade B
Finally broke out and was on pace for a 45-point season before moving up to the NHL (where he can be expected to stay).
Chris Wideman 60-2-16-18 +8 FM 2 SCR 6 [ECHL 5-0-5-5 +2] Grade B
Looked out of place early in the season, but towards the end of the year suddenly found his game and began to pile up the points.  As an undersized defender he always has to do more than his larger compatriots, but there are signs he might be able to do just that.
Mark Borowiecki 53-4-10-14 +21 FM 14 INJ 13 [NHL 6-0-0-0 +1] Grade C
His rugged style resulted in missing considerable time due to injury.  It was something of a surprise that he was unable to stick with the undermanned Senators.  He earned the “C” late in the season.
Tyler Eckford 59-7-6-13 Even FM 1 INJ 17 Grade D
After a great start to the season, Eckford went ice cold and struggled with injuries.  Solid play in the post-season would help salvage his season.
Eric Gryba 38-5-6-11 +28 FM 1 INJ 9 [NHL 31-2-4-6 -1] Grade B
Continued his steady play at the AHL level, but his lengthy stay with Ottawa is something of a surprise given the organisational support for Borowiecki.
Mika Zibanejad 23-4-7-11 +3 INJ 17 [NHL 39-7-13-20 +10] Grade D
Ironically, Zibanejad has been much better at the NHL level than in the minors.  He was inconsistent with Binghamton and struggled with injuries.
Fredrik Claesson 70-3-8-11 +4 FM 3 INJ 3 SCR 3 Grade B
One of the youngest players on the team, after a rough start to his AHL career he became a steady defender.
Dustin Gazley 29-4-5-9 +2 INJ 6 [ECHL 37-14-35-49 +6] Grade C
Initially a breath of fresh air offensively when he was first called up to Binghamton, that production disappeared and the undersized forward has slipped down the roster accordingly.
Wacey Hamilton 38-4-4-8 -7 FM 1 INJ 34 SCR 4 Grade D
Missed half the season with the concussion and when he returned to the lineup continued the internal conundrum for me in wondering what the organisation thinks they have in him.  An undersized player, he continues to be on the wrong side of the plus/minus ledger and he doesn’t score, so what is he exactly?
Danny New 33-2-5-7 +9 FM 1 SCR 8 [ECHL 21-2-9-11 +4] Grade B
Played his way up from Elmira to Binghamton and while he didn’t light the world on fire the fact that he was a plus player and suited up in place of actual prospects (like Blood) is a pat on the back to the NCAA grad.
Louie Caporusso 23-1-5-6 -1 [ECHL 41-19-26-45 +15] Grade F
Despite earning his first AHL points, he hasn’t done nearly enough to justify the organisation re-signing him.
Andre Petersson 17-2-3-5 -7 INJ 59 Grade incomplete
Injured early in the season, Petersson‘s season never really got off the ground.
Buddy Robinson 6-2-2-4 +2 SCR 1 [NCAA 38-8-8-16] Grade incomplete
NCAA free agent signee has looked good in limited action.
Jack Downing 19-3-1-4 -2 FM 2 INJ 19 SCR 2 [ECHL 34-14-14-28 +2] Grade D
A Binghamton regular last year, Downing was an injury fill-in and clearly hasn’t been able to take that next step.
Jared Cowen 3-0-3-3 Even [NHL 4-0-0-0 -1] Grade incomplete
Injured after a promising start.
Cody Ceci 3-1-1-2 +2 [OHL 69-19-45-64] Grade incomplete
Late addition from junior.
Michael Sdao 12-1-0-1 +4 FM 3 SCR 3 [NCAA 31-8-7-15] Grade incomplete
Finished his college career and added some toughness to the team.
Darren Kramer 21-1-0-1 -3 FM 11 SCR 22 [ECHL 19-3-7-10 +1] Grade D
Unable to establish himself as an AHL regular.
Matt Puempel 2-0-0-0 +1 [OHL 51-35-12-47] Grade incomplete
Late addition from junior.
Jakub Culek 3-0-0-0 Even SCR 3 [QMJHL 9-3-4-7] Grade incomplete
Late addition from junior.
Kyle Bushee 3-0-0-0 -1 [ECHL 63-9-23-32 +15] Grade incomplete
Emergency call-up from Elmira, he could not force himself into the lineup like New.
Nick Craven 4-0-0-0 Even [NCAA 25-16-17-33] Grade F
NCAA free agent signed an ATO, but couldn’t keep his place on the roster.
Jean Bourbeau 6-0-0-0 -3 [ECHL 64-20-18-38 +2] Grade incomplete
Not very impressive in limited call-up duty.
Ben Blood 24-0-0-0 -4 FM 2 SCR 6 [ECHL 32-1-1-2 +8] Grade F
NCAA grad struggled mightily at the AHL level.
Brad Peltz SCR 56 [ECHL 13-2-2-4 +2] Grade F
A surprise signing (AHL-contract), he never earned his way into the lineup and barely played at the ECHL level.  It’s hard to imagine he’ll be retained.

Robin Lehner 18-10-2 2.12 .938 [NHL 4-3-4 2.22 .936] Grade A
A fantastic season for Lehner which earned him an NHL roster spot.
Ben Bishop 8-3-2 2.59 .928 [NHL 8-5-0 2.45 .922] Grade C
Played as expected in Binghamton, but was ultimately outplayed by Lehner.
Nathan Lawson 12-6-2 2.19 .938 Grade B
After a rocky start he’s been excellent as the starter.
Marc Cheverie 6-6-1 2.80 .907 [ECHL 11-9-1 2.60 .917] Grade C
After initial struggles at this level he was able to win some key games down the stretch.
Andrew Hammond [DNP] Grade incomplete
NCAA free agent signee arrived on an ATO, but was never put into the lineup.
Scott Greenham [DNP] Grade incomplete
Inexplicably signed to a PTO at the end of a season, was thrown in for a period at the end of the season.

Whereas last year Binghamton’s season collapsed under the weight of key injuries, this year they shrugged off both injuries and permanent roster loses to the NHL.  The inexperienced Luke Richardson was able to squeeze enough production out of his ever-shifting lineup to make them a formidable opponent. Goaltending, above anything else, lead the team.  No player scored 20 goals or produced 40 points, yet there was always just enough scoring to put the team over the top.  The organisation was able to consistently add talent to the roster and that will continue going into next season (albeit the blueline is a bit thin on offensive talent).  I believe the team is already a success, but there’s nothing preventing Binghamton from making a spirited run in the playoffs.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)