Your Obligatory B-Sens Win the Calder Cup Post: A Few Passing Thoughts On Binghamton’s Championship

1) With the Senators down 3-1 in their first round series against the Manchester Monarchs, the Binghamton Senators turned to Robin Lehner to save their season. It turns out it was the best decision that Kurt Kleinendorst made as the B-Sens piggybacked Lehner all the way to the Calder Cup Championship.

2) The Calder Cup Trophy is the first professional championship that the Senators have won as an organization and the timeliness of it cannot be understated.

In light of the vast amounts of digital ink that spent describing how the John Muckler era emptied the coffers and struggled to replenish the system while chasing the elusive Cup, it’s probably important to acknowledge that Ottawa has had competitive teams in Binghamton before. When the NHL lockout erased the 2004-2005, the Senators returned a variety of its young, AHL-eligible players — Jason Spezza, Anton Volchenkov, Antoine Vermette, Ray Emery, and Chris Neil – to play in Binghamton. Despite this wealth of talent, the Baby Sens flat-lined in the first round and were ousted by the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Penguins. While it’s true that the bulk of Binghamton’s players project as third or fourth line players, the inclusion and prominence of blue chip prospects like Jared Cowen and Lehner has been fantastic for their personal development. By imbuing this winning culture at such an early stage of their professional careers, the hope is that one day we can fondly look back at this 2010-11 Binghamton Senators team and point to this particular playoff run and say that the reason why the Ottawa Senators are having success is because this same group of players carried these lessons and experiences with them to the next professional level.

3) While the Calder Cup was a fantastic team accomplishment, Lehner was recognized for his individual efforts by being named as the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy winner for playoff MVP. And speaking of individual accomplishments, fans should not forget that it was Lehner’s stonewalling of a Bud Holloway penalty shot in Game 6 of Bingo’s quarter-final series against Manchester that kept their playoff hopes alive.

4) Lehner become just the fourth teenaged goalie in AHL history to win the Calder Cup; following in the footsteps of Price (2007), Patrick Roy (1985) and Gordie Bell (1943). (Note: that little fact came courtesy of The AHL’s twitter feed: @theahl.) As I mentioned on the last episode of The 6th Sens Podcast that was recorded this past Sunday, there are some significant career parallels (note: not talking about technique, eyebrows or smoking cigarettes.) between Robin Lehner and Carey Price.

Here’s a look at their respective playoff statistics:

Robin Lehner: 19 GP – 14 wins, 4 losses, 3 shutouts, GAA of 2.10 and a save percentage of 0.939.
Carey Price: 22 GP – 15 wins, 6 losses, 2 shutouts, GAA of 2.05 and a save percentage of 0.936.

Eerily similar.

With the way in which Ottawa’s goaltending situation has always been in a state of flux, fans are eagerly anticipating Lehner’s permanent arrival here in the nation’s capital. Considering the similarities between Lehner and Price, one has to wonder if the Senators organization would be inclined to use Price’s career as a bit of a guideline. Like Price, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to see Lehner start the season back in the AHL so that the organization can develop him by getting him into games. (Note: For the record, Price started the 2007-08 season in Hamilton and was promoted after 10 games. He would go on to play in 41 games for the Canadiens that season.)

Although the Senators organization expected big things from Lehner, it would have been naive for them to assume that his learning curve would be this quick. Obviously the organization has afforded him some time to develop by inking Craig Anderson to a four year extension but it’s going to be interesting and fun to watch how long Anderson can hold Lehner off. In a best case scenario, hopefully the Anderson/Lehner tandem can fare as well as the Tuuka Rask/Tim Thomas duo has for the Bruins.

5) It was a classy move by captain Ryan Keller to hold up what looked like assistant coach Steve Stirling’s locker room stall placard as he took a picture with the Calder Cup. Stirling, if you’ll remember, is recovering from the quadruple bypass surgery that he had on Sunday. After flying back to Binghamton earlier this afternoon, the team stayed true to their playoff tradition of putting pucks – one for each successive win — into their fancy wooden display and had Stirling insert the 16th win into its reserved spot.

You really have to give it up for this collective group of players. Not only did they handle themselves impeccably well in Stirling’s absence, they’ve been doing it all season long. The effort and work that Cody Bass has put in for the Do It For Daron initiative has been exemplary and deserves to be recognized.

So let me end this in a tired cliche: For the first time in a long time, there’s this glowing optimism in Ottawa that the kids are alright.