Lehn-sanity reigns for Senators

Robin Lehner has had an outstanding week in goal for the Senators. (BLAIR GABLE/Reuters file photo)

Robin Lehner has had an outstanding week in goal for the Senators. (BLAIR GABLE/Reuters file photo)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:52 PM ET

OTTAWA - Even in defeat, Lehn-sanity lives.

That’s because Robin Lehner made a handful of highlight-reel saves and was the only reason the Senators had a chance to pull Friday’s game with the Blackhawks out of the fire.

But one day later, the 20-year-old Swedish goalie was also the voice of reason among any talk that he’s a saviour.

“I heard it from one of the guys, I haven’t really seen it,” Lehner said Saturday of the Lehn-sanity headlines and tweets, support he has received since establishing himself as a legitimate go-to guy in the wake of an unfortunate hand injury that has threatened Craig Anderson’s season. “You’ve got to put a little perspective on it, too. I’ve played four games this season. I’m happy with my performance in the four games, but it’s not there yet, to be that hyped.

“I understand why it’s hyped. I’m a really young goaltender. I feel like I’ve been playing solid, okay ... it’s just the way it is here in Ottawa. I don’t mind it, and I don’t mind it when it goes bad, either. One bad game here and we’ll see if Lehn-sanity sticks. It probably won’t.

“These guys (Senators) have been teaching me lots about it. I don’t try to get too high when I’m good and too low when I’m down.

“You can hate me, but never break me.”

Coach Paul MacLean said after practice at the Sensplex he hasn’t yet made a decision on a starting goalie for Sunday’s game in Sunrise, Fla., against the Panthers. But with the Senators still in a fight to claim a playoff spot, it has to be Lehner.

In a three-game stretch this week, Lehner has allowed four goals and won twice, including his first career shutout. He also has a 3-2 victory over Toronto in October to his credit.

“Robin has played real well in the time he’s been here,” said MacLean.

Lehner wasn’t completely content with his own game in the 2-1 loss to Chicago, which included a breakaway stop, then a penalty shot save off Patrick Sharp and had a few other ’Hawks staring at their sticks.

He blamed himself for the acrobatics that were needed for some of the 39 shots he faced.

“I was happy with a certain part of it,” he said. “The battling was real good for me. It was the first time I played a team quite like that in this league. They were really good. They passed the puck a lot, made me move a lot. So sometimes I felt like I got out of my angles a little bit. I wasn’t as comfortable as I wanted to be. But that’s something that comes with time. You get that with routine, and doing it a bit. Practising with this team, you get into it.

“That’s one thing, I just wish I was a little more comfortable in net. That I made some easy saves instead of a lot of hard saves. Otherwise I felt pretty good.”

Lehner said he’s neither tired physically nor mentally, but admitted he feels the pressure to perform.

“I want to be the best I can be every game,” he said. “So basically I’m just trying to fight for my chance right now, to be here as long as possible. Of course that’s part of the game. Something I’ve got to get used to.

“I know how it is. I know my role here. I’ve been following Craig and this team for the whole season. He’s been great. He’s been carrying this team. He has 29 wins this year. He’s been rock solid. I’m just trying to be here for this team right now. If I get the chance, I’ll just try to play my best, so we might get some points out of it.

“When he comes back, I’m not expecting anything. We’ll see what happens. Whatever they think is best for me, I’ve got to trust them and do what they say.”

At the same time, he’s looking forward to the day he’s told to find a home in the hockey market of Ottawa.

“It’s so much fun,” Lehner said of being in the spotlight. “It just comes with the territory. People talk about goalie graveyards here, and obviously, some goalies, maybe. But look at Craig this year. He’s been rock solid, and he was really good when he came here last year, too.

“Last year for me, I had a couple of big scoring games against me ... it happens. It’s part of a process. It’s a team game. Sometimes it just happens.”

ICE CHIPS

Newly acquired Matt Gilroy had the third-most ice time among Senators defenceman Friday. He also had the best chance to tie the game in the third, but his shot at the open net went high. “(Duncan) Keith got his stick on it,” said Gilroy. “I was so happy, and then was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ That’s why he’s a good player. He makes plays like that.” ... The Senators expect to get a tour of a world-class horse breeding facility, a two-horse race and a fine lunch when they tour owner Eugene Melynk’s ranch in Ocala, Fla., Monday. “There will be a major tennis match going on as well,” said Daniel Alfredsson. “Spezza-Alfredsson vs. Karlsson-Gonchar. We’re probably favoured, 10-1.” Indeed, Alfredsson is not just the team’s best table tennis player. He’s good on ground, too. “I’ve been known to come out on top every once in a while,” he smiled ... Out since December with a concussion, C Jesse Winchester practiced with his teammates again Saturday. “Today was the best day that I’ve been with the team, the four times I tried,” he said. “Hopefuly be symptom free when they come bck from Florida.” ... Upon review, Friday’s loss to Chicago re-confirmed MacLean’s original thoughts on the game. “After watching it again, it probably got worse,” he said. “Chicago is a real good team. Every once in awhile we get a lesson, get schooled on how we would like to be. (Friday) night was another one of those nights. Boston’s done it to us a couple of times. Basically, (Friday) night tells us we still have a ways to go if we want to be one of the best teams.” Specifically? “Our defensive zone play, which we’ve been working on a lot since the all-star break, is obviously something we need to continue to work on,” said MacLean. “And our play in the offense zone, having the ability to hang on to the puck and play in the opposition zone way more than we play in our zone is still a priority.”

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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