Four Andrew Hammond starts. Four wins. .962 SV% and a 1.15 GAA. And a nice little curve there on the end of the playoff probability chart. Like a hook in our hearts.
Yes, Hammond is looking positively Brian Elliott-esque out there. And as a result, for the first time in over two months, Ottawa’s playoff chances are higher than 20%. Somehow this was achieved with even better goaltending for a team whose only strength was goaltending. Hockey is the weirdest. Or, as James put it:
But yo…after tonight we can agree that NHL GM is the WORST job tho right?
— WLCM 2 YR KRLSSN YRS (@wtyky) February 27, 2015
A survey of Twitter last night at 1AM – usually the hour for calm, rational assessment – revealed schizophrenic levels of indecision. We’re in the middle of a hockey analytics renaissance; the supremacy of cold, objective logic and infallibility of numbers. And yet here we have a 27 year old with mediocre AHL numbers in the NHL driving Ottawa within five points of a wild card spot. It’s unsustainable and a small sample size and yadda yadda yadda. But in the meantime we actually have a reason to watch the Ottawa Senators play hockey again.
It’s a weird thing to root for, to be sure. Of all the teams with a shot at a generational talent in this year’s draft, Ottawa is the one who could turn around into a contender the quickest. They’re already on the tail end of a rebuild. Adding a high end prospect in the mix could be the thing that turns a fully developed Sens team from a playoff hopeful to a genuine threat. Finishing 9th in the East this year would be soul crushing.
Or, on the other hand: fuck it, let’s go for it. Is there anything more compelling, any better distillation of why we watch sports, than the story of an almost washed-out goaltender getting his shot in the NHL for a team that has nothing to play for and turning them into world beaters? Don’t you want, at the end of the day, people to want to watch your hockey club? Shouldn’t we be excited for the next game as opposed to being excited for the next draft?
So, against all logic, with 23 games left and five points out, with two teams to leapfrog and the Bruins of all teams holding down that last wildcard spot, I for one will be cheering on Andrew Hammond. Not just as our goaltender, but because in the back-half of a too-long season it’s outliers that make hockey hockey and sports sports. Because for all of the revolutionary democratization that analytics brings to this old boys club, and as completely into overturning the moneyed order as I am, sometimes you just want to see the plot of Rudy play out in your team’s colors.
At least until we flip him to Philadelphia for a prospect.