- Under the “N”, Calder Cup!
Thursday night in Manchester, New Hampshire will mark the first time in six desperately long years that the Binghamton Senators (42-30-3-5) have participated in a playoff game. Naturally, it was all smiles in Bingo last week. Said Vice President of Operations, Tom Mitchell “I’ve never been involved with any team that’s missed the playoffs five years in a row — it’s been a long dry spell, not only for the ownership, but for the fans, for the whole community. I think that we have an opportunity here to really bring some recognition to this organization and our community again. I think it’s been a long time coming. I’m pretty excited about it. I could skate through the end of the rink right now.” From an Ottawa Senators fan perspective, you have got to feel great for the baby Sens. Not only are the playoffs terrific for their organization and community, but they also suggest that Ottawa’s farm system is finally turning a corner. A successful AHL affiliate certainly adds to the optimism regarding Ottawa’s future.
With the initial elation and back-patting out of the way, the B-Sens spent the week preparing for the task at hand. Bolstered by the return of eight reinforcements from the parent club, including David Hale, Bobby Butler, Colin Greening and Zack Smith, the Bingo line-up has its fair share of NHL experience and is looking solid from top to bottom. The practice lines on Wednesday, according to Joy Lindsay, were:
Roman Wick – Jim O’Brien – Erik Condra
Kaspars Daugavins – Ryan Potulny – Ryan Keller
Colin Greening – Zack Smith – Bobby Butler
David Dziurzynski – Cody Bass – Derek Grant
Corey Cowick – Mike Hoffman – Jason Bailey
Obviously, Head Coach Kurt Kleinendorst has a lot of options to choose from, but the one glaring omission from the forward ranks may be is AHL MVP Corey Locke, who missed the final three games of the regular season due to injury. It is unclear whether or not Locke may step into the line-up at some point during the series.
On the defensive end exists another notable absentee in Eric Gryba. Bingo allowed 221 goals over the course of the season and Gryba’s shut down abilities will surely be missed. But that isn’t to say the B-Sens will be left high and dry on the defensive end. The blue line will be defended by a mix of experience and efficiency with the likes of Hale, Geoff Kinrade, Patrick Wiercioch, Andre Benoit, Derek Smith, and others.
Barry Brust will more than likely carry the load in goal, but with a back-to-back situation on Thursday/Friday, Robin Lehner may see some action. Brust had many AHL career highs this year including games played at 52, save percentage at .925, and led the team with seven shutouts.
In the Manchester Monarchs (44-26-4-6), the B-Sens will face a capable team that is only one year removed from the Eastern Conference finals. In two games against each other this year, both squads had a road victory; both also scored 255 goals on the year. Manchester is led offensively by top scorer Bud Holloway, but is probably most heralded for their defensive prowess allowing the fifth fewest goals on the season at 209. The Monarchs will undoubtedly attempt to stifle Binghamton with their defensive game. As they have done all year, Manchester may split goaltending duties between Jeff Zatkoff and Martin Jones.
Players to Watch
Binghamton – Bobby Butler: Spending the final quarter of his season in the NHL, Butler comes into the post-season playing at a very high level. Expect the native of Marlborough, MA to make an impact in this series. Said Butler, “We’re just ready to play. We’re focused on the first game and the first series, so it’s definitely excitement in the locker room and can’t wait to get out there.”
Manchester – Viatcheslav Voynov: Leading the team in plus/minus at +21 and defencemen in scoring with 15 goals and 51 points, Voynov will certainly make life difficult for Senators forwards.
Keys to winning BINGO!
Chemistry: With the amount of player movement between Binghamton and Ottawa over the latter course of the year, finding cohesion (and fast) amongst teammates is of utmost importance.
Overcoming injury: Locke and Gryba represent significant losses to the line-up, but injuries are part of the game. Other players must step up and fill the void.
Patience: The Monarchs bread and butter is their defense. Goals may be hard to come by and may take a while to get. The B-Sens have to maintain their composure, stick to the game plan, and keep generating chances in they want to score goals and be successful.
Game 1: Thursday, April 14 – Binghamton at Manchester, 7 pm
Game 2: Friday, April 15 – Binghamton at Manchester, 7 pm
Game 3: Sunday, April 17 – Manchester at Binghamton, 5:05 pm
Game 4: Tuesday, April 19 – Manchester at Binghamton, 7:05 pm
*Game 5 – Wednesday, April 20 – Manchester at Binghamton, 7:05 pm
*Game 6 – Friday, April 22 – Binghamton at Manchester, 7 pm
*Game 7 – Saturday, April – Binghamton at Manchester, 7 pm
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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