Andrew Hammond (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)
Two weeks ago, the Senators were 20-22-9 and a playoff berth was all but out of reach. But after both of Ottawa's goalies were injured, 27-year-old first-year NHLer Andrew Hammond has shocked the hockey world in seven straight appearances – and the man with the nickname "The Hamburglar" has played the Sens back into post-season contention.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: The victory over the Jets moved the Senators within four points of the idle Bruins for the East's final wild card spot. After the win was in the record books, Hammond's teammates were humorously referencing his nickname on Twitter and acknowledging his contribution to their cause during this incredible run:
What a road trip. Let's keep this rolling. We're all excited to come back home. @andrewhammond30 all I can say is WOW — Erik Karlsson (@ErikKarlsson65) March 5, 2015
#hegood #nomnomnom pic.twitter.com/nYbFRvbpXE — Bobby Ryan (@b_ryan9) March 5, 2015Anderson has been activated off the injured reserve since the start of March, but he'll be nailed to the bench as long as Hammond can keep up his incredible pace. Hammond finished his NCAA career at Bowling Green in 2012-13 and he spent last season in the American League with Binghamton, but the roll he’s on now will make NHL GMs sit up and take notice in the summer. And even if he cools down a little, Hammond can take solace in the fact he's arguably got the league's best nickname for as long as he can remain in in the NHL.