Nobody likes a second-guesser. What about a first-guesser?
I reserve the right to call out the Ottawa Senators for botching their goaltending over the past 72 hours, considering I said it during the Calgary game and, more importantly, before Ottawa’s crucial loss to the Boston Bruins Tuesday night. The four-point swing made the difference between trailing Boston by three points in the Eastern Conference wild-card race, with a game in hand, to a seven-point deficit. Woof.
The frustrating thing about Tuesday’s defeat: Senators coach Dave Cameron did not put his team’s best foot forward. Apologies to Craig Anderson, but he isn’t the premier option in net right now. He’s been almost always outstanding since a 2011 trade brought him to Canada’s capital. He has a .921 save percentage as a Senator, with a .925 mark this season.
But Anderson, as good as he is, did not start a game between Jan. 21 and March 8. The Ottawa Senators’ record during that period: 10-5-2. They played their best hockey of the season during Anderson’s absence, largely because of Andrew ‘The Hamburglar’ Hammond’s play in goal. He found his way into Ottawa’s lineup Feb. 16 to mop up Robin Lehner’s mess and never looked back. The Sens handed Hammond the keys, and all he’s done is go 7-0-1 with a 1.54 goals-against average and .954 SP. He’s the first goalie in 76 years to allow two or fewer goals in each of his first eight starts. He shut out the friggin’ Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings in back-to-back starts on the road. No goalie in the history of the universe had done that.
The ongoing struggles of the San Jose Sharks will ensure they spend another summer firmly entrenched in the rumor mill, especially if they miss the playoffs.
Sharks GM Doug Wilson made some minor moves leading up to the trade deadline, shipping out pending unrestricted free agentss Tyler Kennedy, James Sheppard and Andrew Desjardins. Bigger moves could be coming in the off-season.
Since last summer, long-time Sharks stars Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have been the focus of trade rumors. CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz reports Wilson never approached the duo about waiving their no-trade clauses prior to the recent NHL trade deadline. He also said he would never ask them to do so, saying they would have to request a trade. Read more
Maybe it’s time we stopped trying to figure out the Calgary Flames.
So they’re a young team, amassing elite prospects like Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett, building for the future. Doesn’t matter. The Flames are winning right now.
So the analytics numbers suggest they’re one of the league’s worst possession teams – inferior even to Edmonton, Toronto, Arizona and Carolina. Doesn’t matter. The Flames are winning right now.
So they lost all-world blueliner Mark Giordano to a torn biceps tendon for the season. Doesn’t matter. The Flames are winning right now. Visit Philly, visit Boston, visit Detroit, no problem, come out with six points to start March.
But surely, a 4-0 deficit in the third period of Sunday’s game against the Ottawa Senators would smother these Flames, right? Absolutely not. Here’s the must-watch sequence if you missed it:
The Buffalo Sabres have had a rough season no doubt, but spectators got to see some entertaining puck-stopping skills in the Buffalo goal against Ottawa on Friday night. Sabres’ goalie Anders Lindback and defenseman forward Johan Larsson combined acrobatics and fancy stick-work to keep the Sabres up 1-0 in the first period.
Sens forward Matt Puempel put the puck on an empty net for what looked to be a sure goal, when Lindback and Larsson connected with the fluttering puck to put it just wide.
The Sabres would score again shortly after, but Ottawa stormed back with three unanswered goals to hand Buffalo a 3-2 loss.
Goaltenders for both teams were a highlight of the game, with Lindback stopping 34 of 37 shots in goal for the Sabres. Senators’ goalie Andrew Hammond made 24 saves for the win, improving his NHL record to 7-0-1 since becoming Ottawa’s starter.
After a Feb. 7 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Senators were 20-22-9 and well out of the Eastern Conference playoff race – and a little more than a week later, when both of their goaltenders were on the sidelines with injuries, Ottawa’s outlook for the remainder of the season looked bleak to say the least. But something unexpected happened after that: goaltender Andrew Hammond stepped up in the absence of veterans Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson, and the 27-year-old has led them to a 28-23-11 mark and almost singlehandedly pushed them back into contention for a post-season berth.
Christened with the tremendous nickname of “The Hamburglar”, Hammond has started Ottawa’s past seven games and his 35-save performance in a 3-1 Sens win over Winnipeg Wednesday bumped his numbers (including a 6-0-1 record, 1.35 goals-against average and .957 save percentage) to outstanding levels. One of those saves against the Jets was this spectacular pad stop on left winger Andrew Ladd: Read more
During Thursday evening’s game between the Kings and Senators, Los Angeles blueliner Jamie McBain was exiting the Ottawa zone with Erik Condra coming towards him. Condra, with no stick, was simply making room for Ottawa to exit the zone when he caught a slash to what color commentator Jamie McLennan called the, “center of gravity area.”
Suffice to say Condra went down in a heap after receiving the chop to the groin. Read more
If there’s going to be trade action in any division, the Atlantic is the one to watch. With Montreal, Tampa Bay and Detroit fighting for top spot, Boston and Florida trading punches in the Wild Card and Toronto set for a full rebuild, there’s potential for the entire division to be shaken up on March 2. Even if the star players, such as Maple Leafs Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, aren’t moved at the deadline, there are going to be changes coming to the Atlantic as the teams either push for a shot in the wide open Eastern Conference or shuffle the deck and build for the future. Read more
Ottawa Senators defenseman Jared Cowen has earned a three-game holiday thanks to his high, late hit on Florida Panthers winger Jussi Jokinen.
Cowen was given a minor penalty for interference for the hit, which occurred in the Senators’ Saturday contest with the Panthers, but supplemental discipline was not levied until Monday morning following Cowen’s phone hearing with the league. You can watch the hit below: Read more