LONG ISLAND — Some ammo, for those still holding out hope ...
It was exactly one year ago Thursday that the Senators, fresh off a 6-1 pounding at the hands of the Thrashers in Atlanta, went for a team skate in New York’s Central Park.
You remember the talk at the time?
They have no life. They have no game. Brian Elliott is awful. They have no hope.
The next night, with a Binghamton callup in goal, they beat the Rangers in what would be the first of a remarkable 11-game run.
At the conclusion of the streak, the Senators had 62 points.
And if Thursday’s win over the Islanders turns out to be the first of 11 in a row, they’ll have 60 points.
The Senators played just a bit better than .500 hockey over the final 28 games to finish with 94 points, or six more than they needed to get into the playoffs.
Of course, you’re saying, lightning is not going to strike twice.
But then, who ever thought it would hit the first time?
Let the record show that Robin Lehner made his first stop as the youngest goalie in Senators history (19 years, 173 days) at the 51-second mark of Thursday’s game in Long Island off a John Tavares wrist shot from the right-wing faceoff circle.
Lehner doesn’t speak on game day, before the game, but others shared their thoughts on how he’s different from others of his ilk.
“We like his intensity and his focus sometimes,” said coach Cory Clouston. “He’s got to learn to turn it off a little bit when he’s away from the rink, otherwise he’s going to burn himself out. It’s just a matter of being able to get away from the rink and relax a little bit.
“That’s just his personality. He’s a very intense, focused individual. You have to have that on the ice, but at times you’ve got to make sure you’re relaxed a little bit away from it. I’m just saying he has to learn to take a deep breath every once in a while.”
While others would say it’s wrong to throw a young goalie into such a fire, Daniel Alfredsson isn’t so sure.
“It’s impossible to predict the future, but he’s a guy that’s faced a lot of adversities before, and no matter what situation, he just wants to be a great goalie. That’s all he works on,” said Alfredsson.
“It’s a tough question. (Martin) Brodeur came in young and was unbelievable right away (at 21).
“Other guys come in and start really good, and then haven’t really come back after that.
“I don’t know if there is a recipe for success. Getting experience is obviously very important for a goalie.”
In 1984, Tom Barrasso had his first taste of the NHL. He won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie, the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie and was a first-team all-star. He was 18.
STARTS AND STOPS
Corey Locke is now unbeaten (4-0-1) in five games as an NHLer. Somebody referred to him as a Leprechaun the other day, because of his stature. The Senators could use a lot of luck ... Locke is the fourth player in Senators history to wear No. 37. The others: Yves Sarault, Dean McAmmond and Martin St. Pierre.
THINGS I THINK I THINK
A few of the Islanders were sitting around the dressing room watching TV the other day when they heard the TSN anchor refer to them as the “doormats” of the NHL.
“Stop calling us doormats,” Zenon Konopka yelled at broadcasters Pierre McGuire and Gord Miller at the morning skate. “We’re not doormats. We’re hard-working guys.”
Later, Konopka pointed to a 4-3 shootout loss at the hands of the Canucks as an example.
“We have $22 million (in salary excluding the injured players) and Vancouver’s at about $60 million, yet for the most part we outplayed them,” he said. “We’re not doormats. I don’t even have a doormat at home.”
Give him a hand
Le Droit’s “Sleepy” Sly St-Laurent spoke to a group of French students from all over New York about 90 minutes before the game and immediately after his childhood hero, former Islanders superstar Mike Bossy, had the microphone.
Guess which one received a standing ovation?
Why, Sleepy Sly, of course — from his buddies in the Ottawa media listening from the press box.
It was also all Sleepy could do to refrain from singing a catchy but unprintable song written by the Team 1200’s Gordie Wilson a day earlier.
Senators D Chris Campoli appeared to be slightly choked by emotion when asked by reporters about being a healthy scratch at Nassau Coliseum Thursday. “Yeah, for sure it’s frustrating,” said Campoli, who was drafted by the Islanders and played four seasons here. “I’m not happy about that.” Campoli has disappointing offensive numbers, but only six Senators have a better plus-minus than his minus-6, and that includes the minus-4 he had in Boston that caused coach Cory Clouston to bench him.
Zenon Konopka, a sharp guy who like some of us will sometimes play dumb, was excited and appreciative when Dave “The Voice” Schreiber told him on the next visit to Long Island, he’d bring him a copy of the new Brian Kilrea book. “That’s great,” said the former 67’s captain. “Now I just have to find somebody who will read it to me.”