A goal tending problem worth having
Lehner playing well in Anderson’s place, but Senators still want to give Bishop a shot
Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray couldn’t help but muse about his bittersweet go altending issue as he watched the team practise Saturday before leaving for its Sunday evening game against the Florida Panthers.
With Craig Anderson sidelined indefinitely because of a lacerate finger on his right hand, Robin Lehner has been spectacular as a substitute. Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks could have been a blowout defeat without Lehner.
The 20-year-old Swede acknowledges that the hype surrounding him has been over the top, but he has certainly looked like a quality NHL netminder while starting the past three Senators games and has earned his share of accolades.
Murray’s dilemma is that he’s also anxious to recall Ben Bishop and give him a shot at the National Hockey League level. Since joining Binghamton of the American Hockey League after being acquired from the St. Louis Blues last Sunday, Bishop has also been superb, posting 41 saves each in consecutive victories, including Friday’s 5-2 decision against the Syracuse Crunch.
“He’s the real deal,” Binghamton coach Kurt Kleinendorst told the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin. “There’s just something that goes with a goaltender like Ben that just makes your team better. They feel secure. I think they know they can make a mistake and he’s forgiving. I don’t say that disrespectfully to Mike (Mckenna) or Robin. There’s just something about having a goalie like Ben back there that brings out the best in your group.”
The goal tending saga doesn’t end there. Before leaving on the Senators’ charter flight to Florida, head coach Paul Maclean was hadn’t decided whether to start Lehner or Alex Auld against the Panthers. Auld, the back-up to Anderson all season, hasn’t played since losing 5-3 to the Boston Bruins on Feb. 25.
“(Lehner) has certainly played well enough to continue, but we’re going to evaluate on the plane and make a decision (Sunday),” Maclean said, acknowledging concern about the possibility of overworking Lehner. “We’ll factor in how Florida’s playing and who’s playing for them and all that, going through the same routines that we do every game before making that decision.”
One thing’s sure. Florida hasn’t played well against Ottawa for a long time. The Senators are in position to extend their winning streak against the Panthers to 10 games.
While the Panthers lead the weak Southeast Division, they also went into Saturday’s game against the Nashville Predators stinging from a 7-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who has three goals and four assists in three games against the Panthers this season, said there was “nothing” to the streak.
“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “They’ve struggled for a few years, but this year is different. The last time we played them (a 6-2 win on Feb. 15), Anderson played great and kept us in it early and we made the most of our opportunities.”
Besides, Alfredsson said, the Senators were in no position to take any team lightly, considering the Blackhawks dominated them for two periods Friday.
“We were hesitant,” Alfredsson said. “We were still in it because Robin was playing great, but we got caught watching, no question.”
Alfredsson would get no argument on that point from Maclean, who didn’t like the looks of the game after seeing it again on video.
“After watching it again, it probably got worse,” he said. “Chicago is a real good team, and, every once in a while, we get schooled on how we would like to play and (Friday) night was another one of those nights, and Boston has also done it to us a couple of times. (Friday) night tells us we still have a ways to go.”
WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?
During the 1-0 win over the Bruins on Tuesday, Erik Condra had a wide open net, but hit the post. “If you win, you laugh about it,” he said later.
So, what happens when you miss an open net and lose? That was what happened to Zenon Konopka during Friday’s loss to Chicago.
“You have nightmares, no joke. I didn’t have a good sleep,” he said Saturday.
With the Senators down 2-1, Konopka was on his knees beside the crease, with Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery down at the opposite side of the net when the puck floated in midair. As Konopka attempted to deflect the puck into the open net, but his arm was pulled by a Blackhawks defenceman and the puck went to Emery.
“I didn’t mean to get that much of the puck, but, when I got yanked, it pulled my arm down, that’s why I hit it so hard. It’s so frustrating, just at the time of the game, it would have been big for me personally and team-wise and everything.”
The Senators recalled forward Rob Klinkhammer from Binghamton on Saturday.
Klinkhammer, 25, has 12 goals and 23 assists in 35 AHL games this season.
He was acquired by the Senators on Dec. 2 from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2013. WITH FILES FROM ALLEN PANZERI FOR MORE COVERAGE on the Senators, including a photo gallery from Friday night’s game, go to,