Last Tuesday, the Ottawa Senators sat red-hot Andrew Hammond in favor of Craig Anderson for a crucial tilt against the Boston Bruins — and lost, 3-1.
Tonight, it’s Hamburglar time.
Ottawa’s season may very well be on the line when it hosts the B’s at the Canadian Tire Centre, and it’ll be Hammond — who’s 11-0-1 in his last 12 starts — with the chance to draw his team within two points of the Bruins in the wild card race.
This is not an insignificant development. Prior to the aforementioned Boston tilt, Sens head coach Dave Cameron said it was Anderson, not Hammond, that gave Ottawa the best chance to win, even though Anderson had missed significant time with a lingering hand injury and had only one game back (a wild 5-4 shootout win over Calgary, in which Ottawa blew a 4-0 third-period lead.)
Cameron also made this pronouncement with Hammond in the midst of a historic hot streak, one the NHL hasn’t seen in a while — in Tuesday’s 2-1 OT win over Carolina, the Hamburglar tied Frank Brimsek’s 77-year-old record by allowing two goals or less in his first 12 big league starts.
This week, Sens GM Bryan Murray tried to put Hammond’s streak into further context.
Murray has seen a couple of goalies on streaks similar to the brilliant run the “Hamburglar” is on: John Vanbiesbrouck and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Vanbiesbrouck carried the Florida Panthers to the Stanley Cup final in 1996, and Giguere got the Anaheim Mighty Ducks one victory from the Cup in 2003.
“I remember Vanbiesbrouck, we would go into Pittsburgh for Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals and they had Ronny Francis and Mario Lemieux and (Jaromir) Jagr — all the big stars — and he wouldn’t let anything in,” Murray said Wednesday at the NHL general managers meeting. “In Anaheim when J-S played, we went into Detroit, they got 50-some shots the first night, 40-some the second night and we win both games and we win four straight.
“It was only because of goaltending.”
Not to harp on this, but remember: Cameron sat Hammond in the midst of this streak, in a huge game for playoff survival. Just a stunning decision, in retrospect.
But retrospect is the key word there. The Sens refused to crumble following that loss to Boston and today, it seems everybody — the head coach included — now knows Hammond gives them the best chance of winning.
“He’s just been awesome,” Cameron said.