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Hammond's historic run has Senators in playoff spot

by Adam Kimelman / NHL.com

The transaction line came and went Jan. 29, like so many others do during the course of an 82-game NHL season.

The Ottawa Senators summoned a goaltender from the Binghamton Senators, their American Hockey League team to hold down the backup spot behind Robin Lehner while starter Craig Anderson recovered from a hand injury.

HAMMOND'S HISTORIC RUN

DATE OPPONENT SCORE SV-SA
Feb. 18 Canadiens 4-2 42-44
Feb. 21 Panthers 4-1 21-22
Feb. 25 Ducks 3-0 25-25
Feb. 26 Kings 1-0 35-35
Feb. 28 Sharks 4-2 28-30
Mar. 3 Wild 2-3* 36-38
Mar. 4 Jets 3-1 35-36
Mar. 6 Sabres 3-2 24-26
Mar. 12 Canadiens 5-2 27-29
Mar. 13 Islanders 2-1 34-35
Mar. 15 Flyers 2-1 (SO) 27-28
Mar. 17 Hurricanes 2-1 25-26
Mar. 19 Bruins 6-4 31-35
Mar. 21 Maple Leafs 5-3 22-25
Mar. 23 Sharks 5-2 29-31
* Shootout loss

Lehner started nine straight games; then came Feb. 16 at home against the Carolina Hurricanes. Late in the second period Lehner and forward Clarke MacArthur collided and Lehner sustained a concussion. That pressed into action the unknown minor-league goaltender; an undrafted 27-year-old with an .898 save percentage and 3.51 goals-against average in 25 AHL games. A goaltender who hadn't seen a puck in a competitive environment since allowing four goals on 37 shots in a 5-2 loss to the St. John's Ice Caps on Jan. 23.

The Senators were nine points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference and were trending toward missing the postseason for a second straight season.

So expectations were pretty low when Andrew Hammond entered the net at Canadian Tire Centre.

Five weeks later, Hammond has Hamburglered his way into one of the most remarkable seasons in NHL history.

"He's been a warrior," Senators coach Dave Cameron said Monday.

Hammond made 29 saves in a 5-2 win against the San Jose Sharks on Monday, including nine in a third period the Senators started down 2-1. The victory gave Ottawa a 15-1-1 record in its past 17 games and moved them past the Boston Bruins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The victory pushed Hammond's remarkable run to 14-0-1 in 16 games, 15 of them starts, with a 1.67 goals-against average and .946 save percentage. He's allowed two goals or fewer in 13 of those starts, including 12 in a row to start his career, which tied an NHL record set by Hockey Hall of Fame member Frank Brimsek of the Boston Bruins in the 1938-39 season.

Even the opposition has been impressed.

"[Hammond has] given them a life and an energy," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "I think it's great for him and their team and the city and for fans all over the place. Right now he's an exciting player. He's something that the whole League can rally around."

Hammond is poised to make more history Thursday against the New York Rangers. He can join the Pittsburgh Penguins' Patrick Lalime as the only goaltenders to pick up at least one point in their first 16 NHL starts; Lalime went 14-0-2 in 1996-97.

Lalime, currently a television analyst for TVA Sports, told ESPN.com that he's enjoying watching Hammond's brilliant run.

"I'm very, very impressed with the way he's handling himself," Lalime said. "It's a great story. The way he came in, a little bit like I did at the beginning, like someone who's not supposed to be there, someone who's been waiting to get a chance to play and prove he can do the job, and that's what he's doing.

Hammond has faced an average of 30.0 shots per game, fewer than Anderson (32.3) or Lehner (31.2). But Hammond has faced just as many high-quality shots.

Andrew Hammond
Goalie - OTT
RECORD: 14-0-1
GAA: 1.67 | SVP: .946

According to War-on-Ice.com, Hammond has faced an average of 11.8 medium- and high-danger shots per game at 5-on-5, compared to 12.1 for Anderson. And of goaltenders to play more than 10 games, Hammond is the only one to have a save percentage of .919 or higher at 5-on-5 against low-danger (.967), medium-danger (.941) and high-danger (.919) shots.

Hammond's rise to NHL stardom has been as interesting as his play. The White Rock, British Columbia native went undrafted and played four seasons at Bowling Green State University. He signed with the Senators on March 20, 2013, and got into one game last season, a 35-minute relief stint against the Detroit Red Wings in a game the Senators were losing 6-1.

In college he earned the nickname "Hamburgler," and he's had the McDonald's cartoon character painted on his goalie mask since then. As his star has been rising this season, fans began paying attention, and one lobbed a hamburger onto the ice after a 2-1 shootout win at home against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 15.

"Oh, how great is that? I think it's great for hockey," Lalime said. "I was watching that game [against the Flyers] and I was like, 'Wow. This is amazing.' The whole thing that's going on with McDonald's getting involved, and the fans in Ottawa with the masks, and he keeps doing it. It's amazing.

The publicity from the nickname, along with a phone call from John Bergeron, father of Hammond's coach at Bowling Green and a McDonald's restaurant owner in the Ottawa area, has led to Hammond earning a card guaranteeing him free McDonald's for life.

"I guess at the end of the day I know I’ll never end up starving," Hammond said after beating the Flyers. "If hockey doesn't work out I'll have a meal plan."

The Senators need Hammond to keep winning. He was run into by the Sharks' Logan Couture in the third period Monday and was unavailable for comment after the game because he was receiving treatment from the Senators' training staff. But during an interview Thursday on TSN 1200 AM radio in Ottawa, Cameron said Hammond would be available Thursday.

Lalime has held his place alone in NHL history for nearly 20 years, but said he's ready to have some company.

"It's a great story," he told ESPN.com. "A great story for the League, a great story for Ottawa, and a great story for him."

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