The Ottawa Senators have received some incredible play from Robin Lehner since Craig Anderson was stretchered off the ice against the Dallas Stars on November 3, but head coach Paul MacLean is going out of his way to squash any goaltending controversies right now.
Lehner was named the NHL’s first star of the week after going 3-0 while carrying a 1.33 GAA and a .958 save percentage during that stretch. Given how poorly the Senators have been on defense so far this season, Lehner’s marvelous run is made all the more impressive.
Despite that though, he’s getting relegated to No. 2 duty as Anderson is ready to play again. Which is a mistake.
“Craig Anderson is the No. 1 goalie and he’s ready to play. He’s ready to play,” says MacLean. “Robin has done a good job.” #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) November 11, 2013
Going with your top netminder is never a bad move, but is benching Lehner really the way to go here? Anderson was pitching similar numbers when he was injured last season and the Senators immediately went back to him when he was available, so what’s the difference here?
Right now Lehner is the hottest goaltender in the NHL and you’re going to bench him for a guy that’s struggled to find consistency all year long? The move seems questionable at best. There’s no doubt that Lehner will eventually play a bad game, and once he does, then give him the hook.
Why bench a scorching netminder for a banged up and rusty Anderson? Especially considering that Ottawa was floundering badly in front of Anderson before Lehner came off the bench and dominated. Lehner dominated in nearly every game he’s played so far in 2013-14, and sending him back to clipboard duty seems like a foolish move at this point.
What’s the worst that could happen by continuing to roll out Lehner? He secures you a few more victories while Anderson gets back into the groove in practice and eventually lays a bad egg. Then go back to Anderson.
Or Lehner continues to tear it up, maintains a sub-2.00 GAA while ushering the Senators into the playoffs and winning the Vezina Trophy in the process. Those are really the only two ways things could go if MacLean stuck with the hot hand—a move that no one would question at this point.
Now if Anderson comes back in and struggles, what is MacLean going to do? Will he continue to ice his No. 1 guy just because he’s the “starter”? Or will he go back to the hotter Lehner? If he does the latter then he’ll have a real goaltending controversy on his hands, unlike the false one that he’s trying to snuff out now.