A week ago, the Ottawa Senators looked like they were finished for the season. The team had just lost both their netminders to injuries and were falling further and further down the standings.
Craig Anderson, the Senators’ No. 1 goalie, was out with a hand injury (suffered Jan. 21) and backup goalie Robin Lehner had just fallen victim to a collision in the crease against the Carolina Hurricanes that gave him and Clarke MacArthur both concussions.
With Anderson and Lehner both out for the foreseeable future, the Senators turned to Andrew Hammond as their new found starting goalie.
Nine days ago, the Senators were 12 points behind the Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Their postseason chances, as per sportsclubstats.com, were at a measly 4.2% and the schedule wasn’t getting any easier.
From there, everyone was convinced that Ottawa would wrap up the season in true tank fashion, diving to the bottom of the league in hopes for a better shot to win the draft lottery.
Hammond had other plans.
Senators Go Streaking
In his first ever NHL start, Hammond was stellar, to say the least. Playing against the conference-leading Montreal Canadiens, he made 42 calm, cool and collected saves, none better than this one:
At the age of 27, Hammond had his first NHL win as the Senators beat the Canadiens 4-2.
After he backstopped Ottawa to a key 4-1 win against a Florida Panthers team just ahead of the them in the playoff race, Hammond and the Senators were off to southern California to start the hardest road trip of the season.
Ottawa had their work cut out for them against the Anaheim Ducks, leaders of the Pacific Division. But again, Hammond stood tall.
Grabbing the puck at the end of the game as a long awaited souvenir, Hammond earned his first career NHL shutout, stopping 25 Ducks’ shots en route to the Senators’ third win in a row. Only the second three-game winning streak of the year for the team.
Does it get any better than that? Well, apparently it does.
On Thursday, the Senators won their fourth straight game and second in a row in Death Valley. Continuing the trend as of late, Hammond was spectacular.
With an amazing 35-save performance, Hammond extended his shutout streak to over 172 minutes. While the Senators only managed to score one goal – coming off the stick of Mike Hoffman, his team-leading 21st snipe – Hammond was the only reason they came out on top.
His game-saving stop on Tyler Toffoli with less than a minute left was unbelievable.
Hammond could only be honest after the game.
“I don’t think anyone expected a goaltending battle between (Jonathan) Quick and the Hamburglar.” – Andrew Hammond.
What’s most intriguing about this story is that up until a week ago, Hammond was having an absolutely horrible year in the AHL. With a GAA of 3.51 and a save percentage below .900, there was no reason to believe Hammond would have any positive influence on the Senators’ season at this point.
Proving countless critics wrong, in his first four NHL starts, Hammond has four wins, two shutouts, a .975 SV% and a 0.75 GAA.
If Anderson or Lehner become ready to return to the lineup, do you even fathom playing them right now?
Thanks to Hammond, the Ottawa Senators are now five points out of the playoff picture with one game in hand on the eighth place Bruins. Their playoff chances have gone from 4.2% to 23.4% in the span of nine days.
It’s safe to say that though they still have a ways to go, you can’t count the Senators out from hockey in May just yet.
This team might have a little more left in them.
Callum is currently a journalism student living in Ottawa where he covers his team, the Ottawa Senators. Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Callum is also a big Mooseheads fan and a lover of the East Coast.