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)