Disastrous February Dooms B-Sens
To say February was not kind to the Binghamton Senators would be an understatement. The team lost eight out of 10 games, including a five-game losing streak and had a bit of controversy mixed in as well.
Goaltenders Robin Lehner and Mike McKenna each had their issues obviously, but the more surprising tumble had to be Lehner, who has a record of 8-16 overall and gave up 15 goals in three losses in February.
Despite his struggles, Lehner was called up by Ottawa on February 24, after an injury to Sens’ starter Craig Anderson. The call-up seemed to energize Lehner, who won his first two starts for the parent club, highlighted by his first NHL shutout in a 1-0 win over Boston on February 28.
Lehner was not the only B-Sens player to see time in Ottawa. Jim O’Brien got the call on February 3 and took his seven goals, seven assists and leadership on the ice and in the locker room with him. He has played very well in Ottawa since his arrival and it would be surprising to see him return to Binghamton anytime soon.
André Petersson, who was named the AHL’s Rookie if the Month for January after a 15-points performance, did not score a goal in the month of February. When you combine that with O’Brien’s departure and injuries, Binghamton never got the offensive boost it needed to carry the momentum of a decent first month of 2012.
Adding to his difficulties was the fact that Petersson made a few enemies in the Binghamton area when he had some not-so-kind things to say about the area in an interview with a Swedish newspaper that surfaced on February 18th.
Petersson apologized for the remarks, but the Binghamton fans were sure to let him know they were not the forgiving type, booing him that night and for the balance of the month at home.
Captain Mark Parrish returned from injury February 18th, after missing 15 games with a shoulder injury. He was re-injured two days later, after a hit to the head by Albany’s Nathan Perkovich. Perkovich was suspended three games for the hit and Parrish was on the shelf for three more games with concussion symptoms.
A 3-2 loss to the Norfolk Admirals on February 24th that saw Binghamton surrender a 2-0 first period lead, pretty much summed up the month. Pierre-Cedric Labrie scored the game winning goal for Norfolk with 30 seconds left in regulation.
Head coach Kurt Kleinendorst was as critical of his team after that loss as he’s been in almost two seasons at the helm in Binghamton.
“I just can’t believe it, I just can’t believe it,” he said after the game. “How many different ways can you find to lose a hockey game, seriously? At this point, obviously I’m frustrated. At this point in time, shouldn’t happen, unbelievable.”
The trade deadline came days later and Binghamton got an unexpected boost between the pipes, when Ottawa pulled off a deal with the St. Louis Blues, that landed goaltender Ben Bishop, a 2011 AHL All-Star.
Bishop is expected to battle for the backup job in Ottawa next season, but for now, he is content helping the B-Sens. He did just that when he backstopped a 5-1 win over the St. John’s IceCaps on the final day of the month. Bishop made 41 saves and earned first star honors in that game. It was only the fourth road loss all season for St. John’s.
He followed it up with another 41 save effort last night in a 5-1 win over Syracuse. Mike Hoffman, who scored two goals in Tuesday’s game against the IceCaps, followed with another two-goal effort Friday to start the month of March. He and Corey Locke each had three point nights.
Binghamton is not eliminated from playoff contention just yet, but a miracle is needed. The team is 11 points out of a playoff spot with only 19 games left.
Don is a credentialed writer, covering the Binghamton Senators on Examiner.com.