Home sweet home

- March 5th, 2015

The Senators had the road trip nobody expected by going 4-0-1.
I can tell you with great certainty Don Brennan and I felt they’d make a playoff push if they could just get their act together and we’ve even talked about possible first round opponents. Don wanted me to book rooms in every Eastern Conference city at one point but I did hold off on that part of his request. It has happened but the Senators aren’t out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination.
Two points behind the Florida Panthers and four points behind the Boston Bruins heading into tonight the Senators still don’t control their own destiny. Yes, they can keep winning, but they need to the Bruins to keep losing and have two games in hand on the Panthers.
The Panthers have the same issue in net the Senators faced when Andrew Hammond went in the net last month against Montreal: Florida will essentially have to use two minor-leaguers because Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya are both out. Who says the Panthers won’t get the miraculous goaltending Ottawa has gotten?
Yes, Hammond is the flavour of the month and rightfully so. He has won and he keeps on winning. There is not a chance he should come out of the net. You ride the hot hand until the the heat is turned off. Plus, the whole scene with Craig Anderson was just bizarre Wednesday being named the starter and then not ready to play. I’m not sure how he stayed as the backup then.
The Senators were 14 points back of a playoff spot on Feb. 7. They were in 26th place in the league and it has taken seven straight wins to make up ground. I asked them that day they were 14 back if they were shocked at where they stood? I sure was and so was Brennan.
They are going in the right direction but unless Boston continues to falter then the Senators don’t have the upper hand here. The good thing is Boston has given everybody in the East hope because the Bruins keep on losing.
Hammond should stay in the net against the Buffalo Sabres.
He should play against the Flames Sunday if they win or if he has a good game and they lose.
Anderson must now play the waiting game to get back in the net and when he does go back of course he has to be ready. If he’s not comfortable, he’s not comfortable but I felt Dave Cameron was in an awkward position when he named Anderson the starter and then declared a few minutes later it would Hammond.
The Senators are back in the playoff hunt but they aren’t in the playoff picture yet. That still has to be achieved.
The naive hate when Don and I are right.

Andy or Andy…Take II

- March 4th, 2015

At 11 a.m. today (CST) the Senators had a team meeting at their Winnipeg hotel.
At 11:01 a.m. it was done.
Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond stayed in the meeting room with goalie coach Rick Wamsley. Not sure if Dave Cameron sat in.
At 11:05 a.m., Anderson, Hammond, Wamsley (and maybe Cameron) emerged.
Judging by the disposition of the two goalies, it was hard to determine which had been told he would start in goal this evening against the Jets.
At 11:25 a.m., Cameron told the media it would be Anderson.
After explaining the decision and answering questions, Cameron walked away. Anderson, who sat on a bench down the hallway, was supposed to be up next. While we waited, reporters chatted with David Legwand.
And then, in a bizarre turn of events, at approximately 11:40 a.m. Cameron came back to inform us Hammond would be starting. At first, I thought he was joking. But Cameron doesn’t do a lot of that, especially on game days.
Cameron said Anderson wasn’t “quite comfortable”. Apparently, the bruised hand injury he suffered exactly six weeks ago was acting up again. Not sure why he didn’t tell Cameron or Wamsley this during the meetings. I asked to speak with Anderson and was told I now couldn’t, because he isn’t starting.
I’m not sure why he wasn’t allowed to explain himself, or didn’t want to, in a quick, painless conversation with the media.
So now Hammond (5-0-1) is making his seventh consecutive start, which I think should have been the call in the first place (see below) while Anderson serves as back up. Unless Anderson’s condition worsens before game time, I suppose.
I do wonder if Anderson can step in if something happens to Hammond during the game. After Cameron originally announced Anderson as the starter, I asked if the 55-year old Wamsley would be available to step in, in an emergency, like a slightly younger Rob Tallis did in Florida. Cameron chuckled and said he wasn’t going to comment on that.
If Anderson can’t start, I don’t see how he can back up.
Anyway, what follows is my opinion around 10 a.m., back before any of the above transpired.

As far as the ability to keep pucks out of a net, I like Craig Anderson. I think he is a very solid goalie.
What I don’t like is the disappearing act he has pulled for the last four winters. Self-inflicted chicken carving wounds, sprained ankles, stingers, bruised hands … let’s be kind and just say Anderson has been very unlucky.
On the flip side, there is Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond, the 27-year old minor leaguer who in the last two weeks has written one of the best individual stories we can remember.
What’s been better – Mike Brodeur hustling from Binghamton to Madison Square Garden, carrying his own hockey bag up the ramp to the dressing room and then shutting out the New York Rangers? Not bad, but Brodeur was more of a one-game wonder and, as far as we can tell, not nearly the same quality of human being as Hammond.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, a rookie and hometown kid, scoring three times in one of the team’s best playoff games of all-time – over the hated Montreal Canadiens at that? Good one too, but again, more of a fleeting moment that what The Hamburgular has accomplished in reviving the Senators chances at a post-season spot this year.
In his first victory, a 42-saver over the Habs Feb. 18 at CTC, some people said Hammond had horseshoes. Exhibit A was the post Brandon Prust hit with a wide open net in the first period. Okay, so maybe the Hockey Gods were on his side that night, and maybe they haven’t strayed too far since. But you also have to be good to be lucky, right? And in stringing together a 5-0-1 record in six consecutive starts, Hammond has also been very good.
So now, with the Senators road-trip closing, all-important tilt against the Winnipeg Jets just a few hours away, we await the decision of coach Dave Cameron, who is expected to tell us which of Anderson or Hammond he will start in goal at MTS Centre.
Andy or Andy.
The unlucky guy or the lucky guy.
I’m listening to the “twitter poll” Steve Lloyd and Chris Stevenson are holding on TSN1200′s “In The Box” right now. The majority are saying Anderson should start tonight. And I just don’t get it.
Whether it’s good karma or the Senators playing harder for the old rookie, there is definitely something magical going on with the Hammond run right now.
Why interrupt that?
Why tempt fate?
The Senators will need to get all the luck they can to make the playoffs. And Anderson will be a factor at some point. But right now, you’ve got to run with The Hamburglar.
It’s been exactly six weeks since Anderson started a game. You want the cold guy over the hot guy? Hammond isn’t tired or worn down. He is pumped up. He can’t wait to play another NHL game. Run with that.
I remember in one of Anderson’s first games back from injury, at the Bell Centre, he let in a soft goal or two. In over 360 minutes as a starter, Hammond still hasn’t given up a weak one.
No, this is an easy decision, as far as I’m concerned.
Cameron is expected to tell us what he’s doing in about an hour, when the Senators finish with a team meeting at their Winnipeg hotel. Of course, you can’t be sure with Super Dave, either. He may yet become the first Senators coach to say his choice for starting goalie will be a “game time decision.”

Dionne Warwick

- February 27th, 2015

Of course you all knew that “Do you know the way to San Jose?” was a 1968 hit sung by Dionne Warwick and written by Burt Bacharach (music) and Hal David (lyrics), but were you also aware that the Sharks are 0-for-February?
That’s right, they have lost all seven games at the Shark Tank this month, although they did salvage a point in two of them.
We’re flying to San Jose in a couple of hours, but I just wanted to update folks of that, and also say this is an off-day (other than the travel) for the Senators.
Also wanted to mention that at Staples Center Thursday night we saw former Kings owner (and ex-jailbird) Bruce McNall, and outside the building following the game we walked alongside porn king Ron Jeremy, who we later spotted “interviewing” a couple of dazzling young ladies outside of our hotel.
Oh, and did I mention that yours truly correctly predicted the Senators would win both their games in SoCal? There is audio proof from a TSN1200 pre-game show.
But I did not expect they would shut out the Ducks and the Kings.
Welcome to Hamburglar Mania. More coverage to follow.

The department of player safety …. and hypocrites

- February 24th, 2015

Jared Cowen gets a three-game suspension which also costs him $113,000, which is a lot of money for anybody, because his timing was a LITTLE off when he hit Jussi Jokinen. It was not a shot to the head, which the league itself admitted, and he was only doing his job by laying a check on a player as he crosses the blue line. Jokinen, who was not injured on the play, would have avoided the contact altogether had he not been admiring his own pass, and been skating with his head up, as we were all taught to do as kids.
But the league is looking out for player’s safety, and therefore needs to punish Cowen, who was guilty only of being a second late with the check he is supposed to make.
Meanwhile …….
Jamie Benn punches Henrik Zetterberg in the side of the head not once, but twice, off a face-off in the Dallas-Detroit game the other night. When you punch somebody in the head, the intention is pretty clear.
Benn gets a two minute penalty and nothing more. And Zetterberg is out of the lineup with a concussion.
Where is the concern for safety here?

Cowen gets three games

- February 23rd, 2015

Jared Cowen got the book thrown at him by the NHL.
The Senators’ defenceman won’t see any action in the Golden State after he was given a three-game suspension by the NHL’s department of player safety Monday for his hit on Florida Panthers forward Jussi Jokinen Saturday.
That means he won’t play Wednesday in Anaheim, Thursday in Los Angeles or Saturday in San Jose. Cowen, a repeat offender, was mystified by the decision.
“I’m disappointed. Three game is a bit much. I’m trying to be a physical player out there and do my job. If I don’t do that I’m not in the lineup. To do that, you’ve got to play on the edge. That’s what I was doing. I didn’t hurt anyone and I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. It’s a bit over the top but there’s nothing I can do about, said Cowen Monday.
Cowen said his previous suspension for a headshot on Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons came back to haunt him.
“Different season. I don’t think it should be related but that’s how they deal with it. There’s nothing I can do about it. They have their way of going about things and that’s just the way it is,” he said.
Cowen had a hearing with the department of player safety Monday and learned of the decision after practice. While Cowen was given a two-minute minor interference when the incident occurred, he did admit to making contact late.
“Goals scorers goals and there’s no repercussions for that but if I make hits sometimes I get suspended, lose money and don’t play for my team. If I do that then I don’t play,” Cowen said.