The Ottawa Senators franchise probably would have been happy whichever way their AHL affiliate the Binghamton Senators won the 2011 Calder Cup. It must be that much more thrilling, then, that they won it thanks to some of the franchise’s most promising prospects, riding a strong third period to a 3-2 win and 4-2 series victory Tuesday night.
This marks the Binghamton Senators’ first-ever Calder Cup victory. Senators prospects who played especially well included players who might be recognizable from their sporadic cups of coffee at the NHL level. Goalie Robin Lehner made 33 saves on his way to the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy, the AHL’s equivalent to the Conn Smythe. Noteworthy prospects Jared Cowen and Bobby Butler reportedly had solid series outputs in their own rights, according to the Canadian Press.
While the franchise itself might hope this is a stepping stone for their players of the future, the team probably rallied around ailing assistant coach Steve Stirling, who underwent heart surgery last weekend.
Binghamton head coach Kurt Kleinendorst gave Lehner, who replaced Barry Brust as the Sens starting goalie in the first round of the playoffs, the bulk of credit for the Calder Cup win.
“We don’t win it unless Robin’s between the pipes,” Kleinendorst said. “I’m not saying that Brust wouldn’t have been able to get it done, but there’s no question that Robin was the difference.”
Kleinendorst was at a loss for words for the second time in three days after the win. The head coach was in the waiting room while his assistant coach Steve Stirling had quadruple bypass surgery Sunday.
“This is surreal,” Kleinendorst said. “It’s hard to explain it, but in a different way.”
Ryan Keller ended up scoring the game-winning goal against Matt Hackett (nephew of former NHL goalie Jeff Hackett), capping an AHL playoffs record with 10 wins on the road in 2011. Surely the Senators will bask in the glory of this Calder Cup win, but in the back of their minds, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were hoping that this is a sign of better things to come on the NHL level.