– Despite being down reigning Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson; their leading scorer from last season, Jason Spezza; and the current league leader in save percentage and goals against average, Craig Anderson, the Ottawa Senators have managed to win five straight games – a pretty amazing feat.
Much of their success, in the midst of a seemingly never-ending line of injuries, has stemmed from the ability of players to make seamless transitions from the team’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton, and some brilliant goaltending.
Since Anderson – who skated today at the Garden – went down in a game against the New York Rangers on February 21, former University of Maine product Ben Bishop has filled in and won all three games in which he has appeared.
Tonight, Robin Lehner will make his first start between the pipes since last March. Lehner, who was recalled last week following the injury to Anderson, played in five games for the Senators during the 2011-12 season.
Coincidentally, one of Lehner’s starts came a year ago tonight against the Bruins, at TD Garden. The result? A shutout for Lehner, in a Senators’ 1-0 victory over the Black & Gold.
“A little bit, but not really,” said Senators’ Head Coach, Paul MacLean, on whether Lehner’s past success against the B’s led to him getting a start tonight. “It’s more based on the body of work that he’s done this year and the strength of our schedule.
“Our schedule has been heavy. Depth is not good if you don’t use it. Robin’s had a very good season in the American Hockey League and he’s played very well in the National Hockey League when he played. Those are a lot of the factors that go into it. The fact that he’s played very well this year in the American League gives us a lot of confidence.”
Lehner didn’t want to put too much stock into his victory in Boston last season.
“People have been asking me that question, but it’s game to game,” said the goaltender. “I’ve lost against these guys too. They’re very skilled – I have a lot of respect for them. We’ve just got to go out, do our best, and try to get two points.
“It’s been about a week and a half since I played a game. I’m excited to get back in there and play for this team.”
Senators’ captain Daniel Alfredsson praised the players, including Lehner, that have come up from Binghamton.
“They’ve come up and played really hard, played well,” said Alfredsson, who’s been at the center of trade rumors over the past few weeks. “They’ve been given a lot of confidence from the coaching staff, too, they haven’t been afraid to put them out in all situations. I think it shows that they’re doing a great job with our farm team in Binghamton. It seems like the adjustment coming to us is not that big.”
Alfredsson, who has played his entire 17-year career in Ottawa, has been trying to block out all of the rumors that he may be playing else where by season’s end and focus on the task at hand: contending for a playoff spot.
“I haven’t thought anything for my own situation other than being here,” said Alfredsson. “I’ve been asked the questions before. I understand there’s going to be rumors. For me, my focus is here with this team, especially with their way we’re continuing to get points and get in the playoffs. That’s what everybody wants – the chance to get in the playoffs.
“I’ve been here so long, I can’t see anything else, but I’d never say never. I just feel this is where I belong. I’m having a lot of fun with the team, especially this year. It hasn’t turned out the way we expected going into it, but guys have stepped in for injured players and done an unbelievable job.
“It’s been a real fun locker room to be apart of.”