One night removed from their 3-1 win over the Thrashers in Atlanta, the Senators have returned home to face the New York Rangers tonight at Scotiabank Place. Considering the travel and the fact that the Sens are playing on back-to-back nights, I was somewhat surprised to learn that Craig Anderson will be making his seventh consecutive start. At this rate, you have to start wondering what will end first, Anderson's consecutive starts streak or #tigerblood trending on Twitter.
Despite impressive numbers since joining Ottawa -- 4-2-0, 1.16 GAA, and a .966 save percentage -- many, including myself, had assumed that the newly acquired Curtis McElhinney would get an opportunity to play either last night or tonight. (Or maybe it was the inner tank feeling in me that longed for a McElhinney start. Ah well.)
What I probably should have taken account of is that Cory Clouston's future in this league could very well hinge upon the success that Anderson has down the stretch. Obviously if the team can sustain its competitiveness and wins some games down the stretch, it'll look better than the complacent efforts that we had grown accustomed to over the previous two-thirds of the season.
Although it is much easier on the eyes to see the Senators playing with some speed and resolve, it has raised the concern of those readers who have questioned the decision to bring Anderson in on a sinking ship. This email from Isaac was one of about a half-dozen that I received on the matter...
The Sens recent acquisition of Ice Girl aficionado Craig Anderson is dumb. How this move fits with the rebuild is hard to see. While it may lead to a few more wins down the homestretch of this disastrous season, more wins down the homestretch of this disastrous season are unhelpful. Sens player guy Pierre Dorion assures the faithful this year’s draft is deep, but there is only one Adam Larsson, and with each save Anderson makes the hulking Swede slips ever so slightly further away.
It is true that I’m jumping gun, and that a 2010 vintage Brian Elliot-like win streak is more unlikely than probable. Still, its still fair to ask what the team stands to gain by playing Anderson. Lets think about two scenarios; Anderson plays well, and Anderson plays poorly.
Plays well: this does nothing but hurt the team. More wins from Andy means less chance of getting Adam Larsson. Should he go “last season crazy” then we slide down the draft board even further. A good run for Anderson would also increase the one season wonder’s contract demands. If management has him targeted as a potential UFA pick up why bring him in now. Finally, if Anderson starts racking up 1st star of the week honours this could conceivably cut into Robin Lehner’s playing time. If Anderson costs Lehner precious developmental games that would be a Milburyian outrage. You can't really blame Young Mr. Clouston if he's more focused on his career wins total than the success of the Sens of the future.
Plays poorly: Brian Elliot was already doing this. Even if Anderson plays OK, as long as we keep losing games and Lehner keeps getting starts no harm, no foul. I suppose, if Anderson plays poorly and signs a super cheap 1-2 year contract* to mentor and spell Lehner in a back-up role and then comes back next year and plays great in that role, then Bryan Murray is a chessmaster (brilliant, clairvoyant, etc.).
But did GM BM really acquire Anderson because he thought he would play poorly? If the "he'll be better next year" analysis is the answer to this riddle, Murray had a much simpler option: sign Anderson in the off-season. If the assumption is Anderson will play poorly the rest of the way only to regain his form next year that would have happened without acquiring him and jeopardizing our draft position. I like the idea of acquiring an under valued asset, but not without considering the context (in this case our 2011 draft position) of the move.
The better Anderson plays the worse our draft position and the more he’ll command as a free agent. To boot, if he takes even one second of playing time away from Lehner, that’s (to fully explain the above-used phrase) an outcome so poor that to allude to the bad work Mike Milbury did as Isles GM to emphasize the point would not be inappropriate.
(Note: If you have something to say about the Senators or the NHL, please don't hesitate to send us an email.)
Over the past two weeks, anyone who relies upon social media or watches television has inadvertently stumbled across some of the batshit crazy things that Charlie Sheen has been saying. (If not, go check out www.livethesheendream.com .)
Well, not to be outdone, Robin Lehner dropped some hilarious lines of his own in a media scrum that was eventually transcribed by Joy Lindsay.
"I like this team a lot, too, but of course my goal is the NHL. My background has been that I always started as second, third goalie and worked myself up and got chances and tried to get them. That's the plan I want to have for next year. I hope we can keep (Craig) Anderson, and I can fight and hunt him. That's my style of my game. It's always been. I'm hunting the goalies in front of me. He would be a good target for me, and I don't care if I play 20 games or 25 games. I'm still young. I'm learning a lot. And when they think I'm ready to be up to take more games, then I would be happy to do that. It's up there I want to be. When I'm down here, I'm comfortable here, too. And I really like the team down here, too, so I hope to help this team to win, and it's going to be a good challenge for all of us."
On whether Anderson would be tough to overtake:
"Yeah. The bigger game, the bigger trophy, right? I think he's a good goalie. I think I'm a good goalie, too. He has more experience than I do. That's kind of good for me, too, because you get experience from looking, practicing, playing and getting through this stuff. Sometimes you've got to get it into your head that I'm a little younger, a little earlier, than most guys. I don't think that's an aspect to it, either. I'm here. I'm doing stuff up here. It's not a coincidence. I think that with the hard work ethic I can show and just fighting every day, there's only good things. I'm not worried. They can get whoever goalie they want into the organization, and I wouldn't care. I will still go there, and I will hunt them. I show, like I hunted Passy (Pascal Leclaire), even though he's hurt, when he was healthy like at camps, at both my main camps in both years. It's been really good. I've showed awfully good numbers there, and good results. Main camp this year was really good, too, but they were kind of set with their goalies anyway. It's just going to be, it's all about tests. They're testing me, and a lot has been a big test this year. I've been up and down, and sitting still for a month, then playing for a month, then World Juniors and a lot of travel -- it's just a lot of stuff. I've been working on my mentality of my game, too. Sometimes goalies need to get into some kind of roll and some kind of regular thing, and I haven't had a regular thing for all year. When I started to have a regular thing down here, then I went away for World Juniors, when I won four in a row. I had a good thing going."
There's always this late season panic anytime a bottom dwelling team starts to play well in the last few games. The fact is that every bad team improves at the end of the season, and Ottawa isn't improving nearly enough to even keep up to the pack. 1st is a lock.
It should be noted that with the wins we have accumulated with Anderson in net we havent moved anywhere in the standings. The Isles are playing better, tough to catch FLA. Edmonton will be hard to top for the worst record with the losses of Penner and Hall. However, what isnt noted is that there is an optimism around this team for the first time in months. It isnt all that bad. Guys like Greening, Butler and Condra are all gaining confidence and experience and they arent playing in a toxic atmosphere that was around in January. What is better for the young players, this is worth considering. Guys with confidence in their play is as important as anything and a losing toxic environment does nothing to enhance there development. It started with Elliott he unfairly had to shoulder the burdon of a team that was underperforming and he lost his confidence and the team played like they were afraid to make a mistake.
To the point the writer above made about costing Lehner starts, had Leclaire not been hurt he would not have been here, nor would he be getting starts here. If our team was playing like they did in January I dont think that does anything to help Lehner in his development. He needs to play and develop in the AHL that includes next year hopefully as a number one. So him losing any starts this year is moot as far as the NHL goes. What is neglected is that while being up here he lost starts that he would have had, had he not been backing up Elliott. Even if we play .500 hockey down the stretch I dont see us moving up at all, 6 points away from Fla and the Isles. Seven points away from Colorado. The Oil will probably tank the rest of the year so we will most likely stay entrenched in the second last position. So what is better having the fresh air and optimism the youth has brought us or the toxic environment we were so used to. The only difference in all likelyhood being one position and still a shot at winning the lottery and selecting in the top 2. Just another way to think about it.