If the Senators walk away with a victory from tonight’s game against San Jose, I will be surprised. And impressed.
I am a strong believer in the desperation factor, and for the first time in a month, the Senators don’t need this game more than their opponents.
The Sharks have 78 points and, with 10 games left, are eight back of the last wild card spot.
The feeling is for them to get back to the playoffs for an 11th consecutive year, they pretty much have to win out.
This is their fourth game of a seven-game road trip (2-1-0 so far) and their last stop in Canada, after visits to Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.
They are desperate to go back across the border with two more points in the bag.
The Senators are one point behind the Bruins with two games in hand, which means they finally have some rope to play with, some room for error.
If they blow this shot at getting to a playoff spot tonight, there’s always Thursday night, when both Ottawa (vs. the Rangers) and the Bruins (vs. the Ducks) play again.
Plus, the Senators will be without two left wingers who have contributed to their recent success tonight: Milan Michalek, who appears to have a concussion, and Matt Puempel, who is out week-to-week with a high ankle sprain.
Taking their place will be Zack Smith, who has missed the last three months and is a better centre than a winger, and Colin Greening, who has played three NHL games since Jan. 8.
Help appears to be on the way at the LW spot in Clarke MacArthur, who is a long shot to play Thursday but could return Saturday in Toronto.
Then there’s the Hamburglar, who has already defeated the Sharks in San Jose but has allowed seven goals in his last two games.
Sharks centre Logan Couture admitted in the post-morning skate dressing room today he and his teammates have been watching film on how to beat Andrew Hammond. When they faced him the last time (a 4-2 Senators victory Feb. 28), they barely knew his name.
This magnificent run Hammond is on (13-0-1) has to end sometime, right? Will it be two games before he ties Patrick Lalime’s record for best start to a career ever (14-0-2) by an NHL goalie?
I wouldn’t be surprised.
About "Don Brennan"
Don Brennan is a Day 1 employee of the Ottawa Sun. He has spent the majority of his 23 years as a sports reporter/columnist, covering the Senators since their return to the NHL in 1992, and prior to that writing about the Rough Riders, 67's and other sports. Brennan also wrote a Page 6 column in the Sun for nine months. A native of North Bay, Brennan moved to attend Centennial College in 1978. He remained in Toronto for a decade, working first as a freelancer, than an editor with the Toronto Sun. Brennan has lived in Ottawa full time ever since.
If the Senators walk away with a victory from tonight’s game against San Jose, I will be surprised. And impressed.
Andrew Hammond is from White Rock, B.C. but he’s quite familiar with the Battle of Ontario.
“Even on the west coast when you grow up, it’s a 4 p.m. game (on TV). You know those games mean more,” said the Senators goalie, who will make play in his first Ottawa-Toronto game tonight at Canadian Tire Centre. “This is a big game for us. We’ve got to keep going. We’ve got to keep collecting our wins when we can.
“For Toronto, obviously they’re a team out of it, but in the rivalry I don’t think it would be any sweeter at this time of year for them to play spoiler to us.”
We assume Leafs coach Peter Horachek was joking when he told reporters who attended the team’s practice at Carleton University that his players are having hamburgers for their pre-game meal today. You’ve got to have a sense of humour when you’re behind that team’s bench these days.
Imagine how good the three games Ottawa and Toronto play in the next 15 days would be if the Leafs were in the playoff hunt as well?
The one player who has suited up for both teams won’t be in the Senators lineup tonight, but Clarke MacArthur did participate in his first practice Saturday morning since suffering a Feb. 16 concussion.
Two other left wingers will be switching spots, as Dave Cameron as elevated Matt Puempel to the first line (with Mika Zibanejad) and slid Mike Hoffman to the fourth (with David Legwand and Alex Chiasson) to get more of net presence on the top unit. Puempel played there in that spot Thursday when the line scored the winner against the Bruins.
This is a big day for the Senators, who could be in a playoff spot by 10 p.m. should they win and the Bruins lose in regulation to Florida. With a game in hand, Ottawa would be in the eighth spot in the standings.
I have a feeling that Toronto, with James Reimer in goal, won’t go down easily. Reimer is 8-2-0 all time at CTC.
Only one goalie has defeated the Senators in regulation time since Feb. 16. And he’s going to get the chance to do it again Thursday night.
Starting in goal for the Bruins will be Tuukka Rask, who missed Boston’s shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night with what is being coyly referred to as “general soreness.”
Rask had the help of three goal posts in the second period of Boston’s 3-1 victory over Craig Anderson and the Senators at Canadian Tire Centre Mar. 10, but he was also sensational.
By game’s end, he had made 39 saves, allowing only the first NHL goal by rookie winger Matt Puempel.
“It wasn’t easy today,” Rask said after the game. “I thought the first period was our best period, and after that we didn’t play our best, but we got the win and that’s all we need.”
Rask’s last appearance was a 2-0 loss to the Washington Capitals Mar. 15. Since Feb. 16, he has a 6-2-3 record and has only allowed as many as three goals twice.
For the Senators to close the gap on the Bruins to two points, they need a regulation win, and that task just became harder with news that Rask will be in the opposing net.
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.”
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.
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