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Lehner: Being the back-up ‘not as easy as I thought’

Jan 21, 2014, 1:01 AM EDT

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So far in the month of January, Ottawa Senators back-up goalie Robin Lehner has seen only one game. Wouldn’t you know it, he posted a 27-save shutout seven days ago against the Minnesota Wild.

The rest of the time, it’s been Craig Anderson‘s net, as the Senators look to turn around this season and the American puck stopper looks to re-discover what made him so difficult to score against in recent years. Anderson, with a .902 save percentage (38th among NHL goalies) and 3.19 goals-against average (46th among NHL goalies) isn’t having a banner season. In the last two games, he’s allowed a combined nine goals on 54 shots – both losses.

For Lehner, in his first full NHL season, sitting on the bench as the No. 2 guy has been a learning experience on its own. His last start not included, Lehner had allowed 15 goals in his previous four starts in mid-December.

This isn’t the first time Ottawa’s goalie situation has become a source of debate. That includes the run of games in December for Lehner, who maintained at the time he was still Ottawa’s back-up.

But it seems to be a recurring theme, so long as both have had their share of struggles.

“It’s pretty new to me,” Lehner told the Ottawa Citizen.

“It’s not as easy as I thought, but I’m doing my best and trying to learn from it … Just trying to play the best I can when I get a chance. That’s pretty much what I can do.”

  1. ryanprzy - Jan 21, 2014 at 1:43 AM

    Lehner’s ready to take over. Anderson has one more year left after this season at a modest $3.2M cap hit, but he’s not a part of Ottawa’s long-term plans.

    I’m sure the Sens would like to trade Anderson but the market for him can’t be very strong. The Islanders need a goalie, but would they consider Anderson the answer? I doubt it.

    • trbowman - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:06 AM

      No point in trading Anderson now unless some ridiculous offer comes up, they’d be selling low given his struggles & that the goalie trade cycle has mostly gone through.

      I don’t buy Anderson’s last season as being a fluke. He had several good years in Florida and carried the Avs to the playoffs in 2010, and I loved that epic performance against San Jose. That said immediately after that year he was terrible and got traded for Elliot. So he’s been historically up and down some seasons.

      • ryanprzy - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:18 AM

        Yeah, he’s difficult to forecast. His numbers fluctuate wildly year to year. And that’s a whole ‘nother level of inconsistency than the usual game-to-game way we’re used to for measuring goalies’ performance.

        But the Sens could sell low and still make out in the ordeal. They’d be relieving about $3M in cap space with their franchise goalie already in the fold. They’d likely use that space to give Lehner a deal in the $4M range over five years but that would break out to be about even, and they’d likely get mid-level prospects/picks in return for Anderson if they could find a viable trade partner.

        Considering that, Ottawa’s not in too bad of a spot. That team has a lot of potential.

  2. trbowman - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:07 AM

    The Sens defense has been porous and they’ve had far too much sloppy play leading to odd man rushes – the distinction being Lehner is making the bail out saves and Anderson is mostly missing them. He’s also let in too many softies. Andy bailed them out all season last year – this year, it hasn’t been there. I’ve also seen a bizarre number of times this year where Andy has looked legitimately uncomfortable in net – tripping over himself and falling on the ice. I can remember that happening at least five times this year. Goalies especially need such a tremendous amount of focus to play…one of the toughest positions in sports.

    • ryanprzy - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:30 AM

      I agree completely. Ottawa plays a wild game, giving up 33.5 shots per game and taking 30 shots per game of their own. Simply put, they’re like the NBA’s Phoenix Suns from the Mike D’Antoni era. It’s a high-octane style of game that they play. I’m not a Sens fan, but that has to fun to watch at times, and frustrating at others.

  3. penguins87and71 - Jan 21, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    I’ll gladly take his job if he doesn’t want it.

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