Lehner mentally ready to play in the NHL

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:25 PM ET

Excuse Robin Lehner for thinking he’d be playing Tuesday night.

He only did so because he made the mistake of listening to the reporters who made the mistake of believing Cory Clouston when the Senators coach said, last Wednesday in Calgary, that he was  going to rotate his goalies.

Curiously, Clouston never did tell the goalies themselves, and he did not say to the beat reporters that he would rotate Lehner and Brian Elliott until one of them gets a win and goes on a roll, as he contended a few hours before the Islanders game. 

“We need one of those guys to step up the next little while,” Clouston stated that day. “Until they do that, we’re going to basically alternate them.” 

Truth is, neither really grabbed the reins, but Lehner did play better in defeat to the Flames than Elliott did in victory over the Oilers, when he gave up three goals, two of which Clouston later said he probably should have stopped, on just 18 shots. 

Elliott also did stop six of seven in the third period, so that apparently qualifies as stepping up.

Against the Islanders, Elliott stopped 11 first-period shots, including an in-alone opportunity by the NHL’s hottest (and fastest) player, Michael Grabner. Elliott was beaten in the second period, while the Senators were a man down (a hurt Chris Neil was lying behind the Islanders net at the time), and was back to being his usual inconsistent self in the third.

His worst moment came when Grabner lost control of the puck attempting to make a fancy move on a breakaway, but still managed to get it and put it in the empty net before a deked-out Elliott returned to his crease. 

He also appeared to go down too early on Josh Bailey’s first goal in 22 games, but came back to rob Blake Comeau just before Erik Karlsson tied the game, plus made a couple of big stops in OT.

Elliott was then oh-for-2 in trying to stop shootout attempts.

This is not to debate which goalie should be playing right now at a time, in this Season From Hell, that the team wins the more it loses. The Senators aren’t going to make the playoffs, so why not get a better draft pick? No, it is merely to reinforce an opinion that the 19-year-old Lehner is mentally ready to play in the NHL now.

He was not at all rattled by being relegated to backup after believing he was going to play the Islanders.

“I’m not up here right now to turn this team around,” said Lehner. “That’s not what they are thinking. I’m trying to prove myself everyday to play. If I don’t, I don’t. It’s nice for me. I played a lot more than I expected up here for the season already. If they want to play me, they know where to find me. If they don’t, I’ll just practise.”

And keep talking, hopefully.

Lehner had an interesting explanation for calling Adirondack fans “dumb” after he and the Binghamton Senators beat their team Sunday.

“I’m Swedish. Dumb has another meaning to me,” he said. “It doesn’t mean idiot. I don’t know .. I just thought the fans were something else. It’s good for their team. Guy has this big cone, feels like he’s right beside, me screaming in my ear. It’d be awesome if you could put our goalie coach up there with that cone. He could give me descriptions all game. Say what I can do.”

Lehner says he’ll try not to tone down his comments as he becomes entrenched as an NHLer.

“I will say what I think,” he shrugged. “Sometimes maybe I will be a little bit robotic, when they tell me to, but get me in the right moments and you get your article.

“It all depends on my mood. If I had a good sleep or not. A good breakfast. A good practice.”

We’ll make sure to check.

THINGS I THINK I THINK

Who says No. 55 has been invisible this season? Saw him right there on the Sergei Gonchar Collector Cup that was available at concession stands Tuesday. (Three more Senators will be featured in upcoming games) ... Sampled one of the new Senators’ doughnuts that will be debuting at Tim Hortons next week. They are very soft in the middle ... Chris Kelly appeared to get the best of a mid-ice head-on collision with Andrew MacDonald in the first. While both players returned, the Islanders defenceman did so in a football helmet ... Given recent incidents involving Islanders, it’s no surprise two Senators (Zack Smith, Chris Neil) were called for goalie interference penalties.

D-MEN DOWN

Remember when Brian Lee was the Senators’ designated sitter? He was a Top 4 D-man by the second period, after injuries to Chris Campoli and Gonchar. So was Filip Kuba, who hit goalie Nathan Lawson on the side with a shot at the open net looking for what would have been his first goal of the season ... Kuba did record two hits in the first two periods, upping his season total to 17. But who’s counting? ... Ryan Shannon, who has lots of experience as a power-play point man,  played some shifts on the blue line in the third. So did Milan Michalek, who was exploited on the Isles’ third goal.

IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?

Attending the first NHL game of potential Dr. Erik Condra’s career was his father Paul, his mother Sonja, his little brother Sean and his fiancee, Ryan Reynolds. “Not a boy, don’t worry,” Condra clarified, just to make sure we didn’t think he was dating Alanis Morissette’s actor ex-boyfriend. “When she (books an appointment) for a haircut they all get excited, then she shows up. Disappointment.” A Detroit native who idolized Steve Yzerman, Condra, 24, studied psychology and pre-med at Notre Dame. Asked if he plans on becoming a doctor someday, he replied: “Maybe. We’ll see how long this career lasts.” As a student, he dissected a fetal pig. “It wasn’t pretty,” said Condra. “It’s a lot different when you look at pictures of things, from when you actually look inside. Lot different when you actually see it.” Condra hoped to show the Senators brass that, while not overly skilled at any one aspect of the game, he is “smart enough to get around” at the NHL level. He looked it with  a couple of setups, including the pass to Erik Karlsson on the game tying goal with just over four minutes to go in the third.

SAY WHAT?

“It would be definitely great to win the Cup, but ... I’m thinking about just playing for this team, and hopefully we’ll win the next whatever games we’ve got left this month. I’m not really thinking about where I’m going to go.” — Alex Kovalev, when asked if he would like to be traded to a Cup contender.

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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