On Tuesday afternoon, Luke Richardson, the head coach of the Binghamton Senators, made an appearance on the Team 1200's The Drive. In light of the already infamous Lehner/Helenius tilt and proceeded to piss away a 5-0 lead, Richardson's comments on how he handled the fallout gives a good sense of the direction he wants to take the team. Besides hitting on the Lehner incident, he lets us know what is going on with Ben Bishop and also speaks about the perceived offensive struggles of Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg.
I haven't transcribed the whole interview; only the parts that I find to be interesting. If you want to listen to the whole thing, you can do so by proceeding to the Team 1200's Facebook page.
As always, my thoughts are in bold.
On what he thought of the 5-0 collapse…
“Unfortunately, the game I felt… I mean, it was our fault that we lost the game, for sure. I’m not going to complain about the officiating. It’s just what happens in the game and it takes two teams to tango. It just progressively got worse and worse and from what I hear, Syracuse ran the goalie hard unintentionally the night before and it happened to be (Braden) Holtby – who happens to be a NHL goaltender playing in the American Hockey League. And he’s now injured. He’s out. He finished the game off but he has an upper body injury. I don’t necessarily think that’s necessarily Syracuse’s game plan or ploy but obviously they play hard and part of their tactic is to get to the net and get there hard. And maybe, if someone gives you a push, you get (to the front of the net) extra hard and that’s what they did. I’m sure the game plan is to get one of our best players, which is Robin Lehner, off his game and they did. I talked about it with Robin and I said, ‘You’ve got to protect yourself, for sure.’ In a game, you just got to realize the time just like you do as a player. You have to be very careful in the last minute of a period around the blue lines and for Robin, there was thirty minutes to go in the game and he was one of our best players in the game. Even though we were winning five to nothing, he made a couple of real big and timely saves to keep it five to nothing. Obviously that’s a team that can go on momentum. They won the AHL Calder Cup last year and they’re more of a veteran, experienced team with a lot of offensive talent, so we found that out in the second half (of the game). So, it was a lesson learned. We’re a younger team and we talked about it after the game a little bit heatedly. And then we talked about it a bit more rationally the next morning before we hopped on the bus to Hershey. We said, ‘We’ll learn from this. Today is a new day.’ They went out, and they certainly learned from our lessons on Friday night – from starting out slow and from only playing the first 30 out of 60 minutes. You have to complete a game. They went out short-staffed, fired (up) on a five o’clock start on top of that in Hershey with a three-hour bus ride and they gutted out a 2-1 overtime victory. I was very proud of them and it showed a lot of character for a young team."
As an organization that prides itself upon having a "real competitive team", we've heard the praise and adulation heaped by Senators management upon the team’s pipeline of young prospects for the way they handle themselves and foster healthy internal competition. But for those of us who do not have an opportunity to view said prospects of a semi-regular basis away from the aggregated minutes and seconds of a shift that we can catch on a live-streamed game, it’s difficult to find tangible ways to measure their compete level. So to see them bounce back after what should have been a deflating result, it helps reaffirm what management has been saying and as such, creates a deeper level of trust for fans.
On the character that the team showed by bouncing back the next game…
"The guys played super-hard and I talked to Robin in the morning and I said, ‘You’re starting.’ It was not planned on to be that way but because I know he felt bad after. He felt he let the team down, but the whole team let the team down. We win as a team and we lose as a team, but he wanted another crack at it and we gave him an opportunity, and he stood tall on Sunday. The guys played very hard defensively; especially on the penalty kill and in our (defensive) zone. They only gave them one crack at it. There were no rebound shots, really, but Robin was real solid and he made one or two really timely, big saves. And they’re hard to do. As a goaltender, if you stand around for a while and then you get a hard shot, and then you stand around for a while and you get a hard shot, that might be the toughest game to play rather than a 45-shot night. Robin was big and he talked big before the game. He was very vocal in the room. We could hear him down in the coach’s office. He said, ‘I really want to win this one guys.’ He was saying all the right things and taking on a leadership role, so that’s a big step for him. He’s been like that from day one this year. I talked a bit at the practice today about Saturday and he’s learned from it. I can’t wait to see the next game against Syracuse, I bet (Lehner) just shuts that door.”
I've re-read what Richardson has said about eight or nine times and I'm ecstatic on so many levels. On one hand, Richardson, a man who is so principally responsible for the development of this team's best prospects, recognizes and understands the human element of the game. Rather than single-handidly punishing the hot-headed goaltender who created unfavorable momentum for the opposition, he goes right back to Lehner in the next game. On the other hand, it sounds like Lehner gets it. (And by it, I mean something other than having the best Senators player Twitter account going.)
On the plan for Ben Bishop:
“Ben is working hard and we worked him out real hard on Saturday morning to get ready and game ready. Unfortunately, he got sick and I don’t know if he got strep throat or what, but he’s been on antibiotics for the last couple of days. We had to send him home again this morning from practice to keep him away from the guys and let the antibiotics kick in. He may be back on the ice tomorrow but unfortunately, he’s had a tough year – obviously waiting for the lockout to finish and then finally getting a contract done to come down to join us. And just when he was peaking and getting into some good game shape, he hit the wall with some kind of virus.”
Anything that leads to less Nathan Lawson works for me.
On Silfverberg and Zibanejad’s getting shots but not results…
“We’re just going in spurts the first couple of games. The first couple of games were just real hard, defensive games and Silfverberg got a big goal for us. And then last Saturday, they were just going in the floodgates and both of them, I think, were in on some points. But, Zibanejad has probably been our most consistent and best forward up until Sunday. Sunday, he really showed that he was a bit tired but he’s been skating a lot. He kills penalties for us and (plays on the) power play. He’s been doing a great job defensively. A lot of Swedes are really good and take pride with good sticks and tracking hard and he’s been doing that as a young player, so I’m not going to complain because those players will find their touch. We’ll help them along for sure and try and get them in the best combinations possible offensively. But, they’ve been tracking it and Silfverberg has been the same – playing power play and penalty kill. I think the game really wore both of them out on Saturday. Zibanejad, we play him on the left wing when he’s a right wing; a lot of it is on his off side. He’s so strong, he can glide to the net and shoot through traffic – kind of like an Ovechkin. Silfverberg, same thing – he’s playing on his right wing but he’s a smart player. Sometimes he hangs onto the puck too long because he’s still figuring out smaller ice surface but Zibanejad, he has been probably our best skating forward – up and down and through the middle; especially playing at center, he was really good on Saturday night. Those guys, it’s concerning if you don’t see them play because you don’t see the point production but I think as the year moves along, you will see that become more consistent. If they are here for the full year or not, depending on what happens (in Ottawa), I think they have been playing great. I think Silfverberg may be a bit frustrated with the time of the puck on his stick without pressure. He’s just used to having the puck on his stick more with the bigger ice surfaces. He’s a great kid who works hard and both of them have been really good for us, so I’m really happy. As long as we can get better as a team, and they can get better as individuals, I think the points will come as the year settles in."
Ummm, nails! And on the subject of 'getting shots' – through 5GP Zibanejad is averaging 3.6 per game (third on the team) with Silfverberg just behind at 3.4 per game. Hoffman is first at 4.2 per game and Benoit second at 3.8 per game. The blog Eyes On The Prize did a little research on AHL shot rates last May and found that one shot in the AHL translates to .56 shots in the NHL. They include a table ranking top prospects shot rates in the minors last season, and Silf and Z-Bad thus far stack up with the best of them. Difficult to read too much into five games, still positive early signs.