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.”
While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.
Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:
Brad Marchand–Patrice Bergeron–Loui Eriksson
Matt Beleskey–David Krejci–David Pastrnak
Jimmy Hayes–Ryan Spooner–Brett Connolly
Chris Kelly–Joonas Kemppainen–Zac Rinaldo
The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.
So, where is Krejci’s game now?
Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.
So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?
On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.
So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?
“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”
Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.
Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.
This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.
“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”
While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”
And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.
Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.
In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.
Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks