In the midst of a 6-0-0-1 streak, Binghamton Senators head coach Luke Richardson made his weekly Tuesday afternoon on The Drive. Although Richardson hit on some other topics (ie. how seemingly every Swedish hockey product is a complete player who understands the defensive nuances of the game) that I did not bother to include in this post, you can listen to the full interview by clicking here, or via the embed below.
As always, my thoughts will be in bold.
On the atmosphere in Binghamton with their winning streak…
“Absolutely, it was a great suggestion by Steve Stirling. We threw a carrot out to the guys because you know hard it is to win three games in three nights in any league; but this league especially. So we gave that to the captain to offer up to the players – that they could get an extra day off this week if they won the three-in-three on Saturday night, so that was a little motivation for them. And we wanted to keep them pushing them and going at a high pace in the games and also in practice. They went out and steamrolled over Bridgeport. It was a great start and they completed 60 minutes and they were really driven. I like that because they went after something and they completed a full game and a full weekend. They just did it with a lot of jump on Saturday after three games in three nights and it was a real good sign to show the fitness level that we’re at. They got today off as well as Sunday. We had a hard practice yesterday; keep them fresh and we’ll be back on the ice tomorrow and Thursday and ready to go for Friday. It’s been a great feeling like you said. It becomes contagious and you want them to really enjoy it. Obviously at some point when you have a game that you do not win, they’ll remember that winning feeling and it will drive them to get back at it.”
It's great to see the farm team nipping at the heels of Syracuse for the division lead. Not sure "winning mentality" is a real thing but it certainly doesn't hurt to have top prospects immersed in a successful environment. Fans in Ottawa stand to gain if the mood in Binghamton remains positive.
On the lack of offence and whether Robin Lehner been their best player…
“Yes, and Ben has won his last two starts. Ben Bishop (I was referring to)... so our goaltending has definitely been our strongest point. But it just has given everybody that extra little time to get comfortable and get going and now you’re really starting to see guys go. It’s been a great thing to have goaltending like this. Every coach loves great goaltending. But, Robin came in focused and ready at the start of the season and he has not missed a beat all the way through; so he has been our number one player for sure.”
Had Cory Clouston been asked this question, he merely would have stopped after "Yes."
Earlier I noted on Twitter that Ben Bishop has rebounded nicely after his first two AHL games in which he posted an 0-2-0 record, a 4.04 GAA and a .902 SV%. In his last two games (a 2-0-0 record, a GAA of 2.00 and a .950 SV%), Bishop's numbers have shockingly regressed to the mean. Who knew that context (a flu and a lack of preparation before arriving in Binghamton) and not talent that could have had such an early negative affect on his numbers?
It should also be noted that Bishop has faced an average of 41.3 shots against per game to Lehner's 31.5 per game. The guy has been getting bombed.
On the importance of strength and conditioning in the AHL…
“Well, I obviously look after what I think we need on the ice. My office is ironically right beside the gym, so I can keep my eye on things, but the guys are great. They work hard and a lot of them are in there even on extra times that aren’t even designated, so that’s good to see the leadership to take it upon themselves. But Chris Schwarz is not only the Ottawa Senators’ strength coach, he’s the whole organization’s. Fortunately for us with the lockout, he has been able to come down quite a bit. He’s been here a few times, as well as Randy Lee. They have given us a template too when they’re not here, so the trainer, Glen Kinney, down here can run circuits in the morning and pre-practice to get them ready after a day off. And then on a day when (the players) need a heavier lift, we have it all set up for us. Even on games day, on warm-ups and flushes they have options A and B. So everything is pretty much set for them, they have to just pick and choose as they go. You know, we have great leadership here. We have a young team but we have a couple of great leaders and I think they do a great job of (policing) it all themselves. I think that shows a lot of maturity.”
I like to think Luke's misunderstanding of irony was nothing more than a hometown shout-out.
On Jakob Silfverberg, Mika Zibanejad and Mark Stone’s progress and development…
“Well, Silfverberg has been a great forward for us all year. He’s a talented guy and I know that everyone thinks that means offence, which he does have – he has got unbelievably quick hands. Defensively, penalty killing, he has been one of our most consistent, best forwards. What we have asked of him to do this year, maybe with the smaller rink size that takes a little bit away from his offence at the beginning until he finds some comfort in the surroundings of the small rink. But the other night when we played Toronto, he basically won the game (for us) in the first period. He set up Shane Prince for a beautiful goal on a forecheck and then stole the puck on the blue line from a strong Toronto team and raced down the ice with a guy basically on his back. A quick one-two move with his quick hands (before) firing it home and that was it. He really controlled that first period and set the tempo of that game. I know the next game, we played the next night against Syracuse and they were all over him. I guess they read the clips. They know who he is and they really tried to play physical against him but to his credit, he made some really smart dumps and just drew people to him and got them out of position. He just gave other people room and he’s a real smart player. It won’t be long before Ottawa sees him."
Considering the state of negotiations, I think Silf is the most encouraging news this lockout has birthed in Ottawa.
“Zibanejad just had some wisdom teeth taken out this week, so hopefully he won’t be out for very long at all and reacts well to that. I know that was bothering him a little bit in the last week, but he had a really strong start. He has gotten a little frustrated in the last little bit. He hasn’t been able to score. He has hit some posts and he has created some chances and just hasn’t been able to finish (them) off. But again, we ask him to do a lot on the defensive side – in killing penalties and winning faceoffs in the (defensive) zone. He’s been great at both. So they’re learning the game. The offensive numbers aren’t huge but they’re getting better and there is lots of upside for both of them."
Well, it's a good thing that he can play away from the puck because if those cynical doomsayers weren't complaining about his offence now; they'd only be complaining in a few years about his one-dimensional play being a detriment come the postseason.
“Mark Stone unfortunately had a bit of an upper body injury after the first few games. I think he got it in the first game and then he had to play through it for a while but then he missed some games. He has been back for a few and he is probably our...I don’t know if you want to call it the smartest forward with your stick if you want to talk about it like that. (He) is almost like a defenceman. He knocks every puck down that is around him. He is so good with his hands that he is almost like a lacrosse player. He has had the same thing, countless stolen pucks that he has just shot over the net and he probably should have three or four more goals at least. But still, he is a really reliable player. A real smart player. Engaging. He is always listening and trying to learn. He is doing a great job. We have got him on a line with Derek Grant and Dave Dziurzynski and they check the other team’s best line and they have been doing a great job of that and they’re also putting some offence on the board. So those three forwards, there are lots of great things to come from them and they’re just getting better as the more reps they get and the more games they get. Unfortunately, they’re in an organization where there is a lot of great young forwards so they’re going to have to battle against each other. But it is healthy competition and they’re great teammates; they just push each other harder.”
Hard to complain when a guy has six points in his first ten AHL games.
On the team’s health situation...
“Good, finally. Right from day one, we’ve seemed to be loaded with injuries and now finally we’re getting healthy. Eric Gryba came back this weekend and played all three games in three nights. He had a big three point night with two goals and (he) played very well. He got better as the weekend went on so that was really nice to have a big body back there on defence. Stephane Da Costa is back out of the gym onto the ice. He practiced with the team on Monday and will be joining the team again tomorrow for the rest of the week’s practices. He looks much better. He banged up his leg when he came back from his first injury – the broken finger. He has had a tough start to the year and we could sure use his talent and his offence. We’re looking forward to having him back.”
Not sure where Da Costa slots at the NHL level, but "the Phenom" quietly put up some solid numbers during his rookie AHL campaign. One would hope he'd be able to improve those totals with improved talent on the flanks.