The Ottawa Senators’ remarkable comeback campaign couldn’t have had a more appropriate finish as once again rookie Mark Stone and 27-year-old (formerly) third-string netminder Andrew Hammond led Ottawa to a 3-1 win over Philadelphia en route to securing a postseason berth.
Stone scored his 25th and 26th goals of the season to extend his points streak to nine games and tie for first place in the rookie scoring race with 64 points in 80 contests. His first goal of the afternoon was partially a matter of being in the right place at the right time as he was capitalizing on a mishandling of the puck by Flyers goaltender Steve Mason. His second marker, however, was very impressive as he calmly stole the puck from Jakub Voracek and then beat Mason one-on-one:
The Senators only needed one point to advance and for a good portion of the first 40 minutes, Ottawa seemed content to just lean on goaltender Hammond in the hopes of at least pushing this game into overtime. As has often been the case since Hammond made his first start of the season on Feb. 18, he delivered for Ottawa. This time around he turned aside 34 of 35 shots to improve to an incredible 20-1-2 this season.
Hammond is 27 years old, which makes him ineligible for consideration for the Calder Trophy, but he only had one game worth of NHL experience going into 2014-15.
For Philadelphia, this was a dreary end to a disappointing season. For the Senators, well, they’re not done yet.
The Ottawa Senators’ late season rise has been led by unlikely heroes and Mark Stone is among them. The 22-year-old rookie has been on fire during Ottawa’s incredible 20-3-3 run and entered this afternoon’s season finale against the Philadelphia Flyers on an eight-game point streak.
It didn’t take long for Stone to extend that streak to nine and give the Senators an early lead as he took advantage of Flyers goaltender Steve Mason’s mishandling of the puck:
That was Stone’s 25th goal of the campaign. Although for much of the season Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau and Nashville’s Filip Forsberg have been dominating the Calder Trophy discussion, Mark Stone deserves to be in that conversation as well. After that marker, Stone is just a point behind Gaudreau and Forsberg in the rookie scoring race.
If Ottawa gets at least a point against Philadelphia today then the Senators will secure a postseason berth. That being said, a win would give them a chance to take the third Atlantic Division seed away from Detroit.
The Ottawa Senators were 22-23-10 when Andrew Hammond made his first start of the campaign. At the time the Senators were a long shot to make the playoffs, but after going on an unreal 20-3-3 run, they control their destiny going into today’s action.
If the Senators get even a point against Philadelphia this afternoon, then they will advance to the postseason. If Ottawa loses then it’s possible the squad will miss the playoffs and that amazing 26-game stretch will be rendered moot.
“We’ve made good steps. There’s no question the young guys have come around and (Andrew) Hammond is a bright light for this team now. A lot of great things have happened regardless,” said Senators forward Clarke MacArthur, per the Ottawa Sun.
“But it just won’t be the same (if they don’t make the playoffs). There’ll be an empty feeling. We’ve got to get in. We’ve done too much here to not get in here.”
More than that, MacArthur thinks the Senators “can do some damage” in the playoffs if they get that far. They’re a young team and will be the underdogs in their first round series regardless of who the opponent is, but at the same time no squad is closing out the regular season hotter than the Senators. With all that momentum and energy on their side, they’re a team that many potential adversaries would likely hope to avoid.
Ottawa’s game against Philadelphia will start at 12:30 p.m. ET.