The Ottawa Senators reserve goaltender Robin Lehner sure picked a good time for his first career shutout: two days after the Senators traded for St. Louis's highly touted netminder Ben Bishop. A little competition never hurt anyone! The trade took place after Senators starting goalie Craig Andersonsliced his finger badly enough to preclude him from playing; Lehner was also called up from the AHL's Binghamton that day and made 28 saves in a 5-2 victory over the Islanders.
It was on Tuesday, though, that the fiery 20-year-old — who became the youngest Swedish goalie to play in the NHL last season when he debuted just two months after turning 19 — really made his mark. Lehner stopped all 32 shots that came his way for the 1-0 shutout victory in Boston, where he was named the game's first star. (Bishop, who was assigned to Binghamton, picked up first-star honors for the AHL affiliate the same night.)
It will be interesting to see what unfolds between Lehner and Bishop. Last season, Lehner helped lead the Binghamton Senators to the AHL's Calder Cup and was named MVP of the playoffs; this year, Bishop has been the AHL's top regular-season netminder for the Peoria Rivermen and was even named the MVP of the All-Star Game.
Earlier this week, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke was adamant that he was not in the market for someone to supplement and/or replace Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer in net. "We are not looking for a goaltender at this point," he said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.
That was before Gustavsson turned in a clunker of a performance Tuesday night. The Leafs, who are on the playoff bubble, lost to the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in overtime as Gustavsson was weak on the five-hole in regulation and unfortunate with his positioning on the overtime goal, which was headed wide but caromed off his equipment and into the net to erase what had been a late comeback by Toronto.
On Wednesday, Burke changed his tune on TSN Radio. "It's very hard to watch what happened and not wonder if we have enough [in net]," he said, before deploying the tried-and-true double negative: "I'm not sure that we're not going to be in the market [for a goalie] before we're done," he said. "The fact is we're losing games because we're not stopping the puck enough."
It's a tough time for goalies in Toronto, though I did enjoy the way this Toronto Sun headline sought to put a positive spin on whether Burke's words might affect his netminders' performance going forward: "Goalies already felt lowly."
With Toronto one of the teams that might be in the market at the deadline for a goalie, who would potentially be available? Here's a look at some of the names that have been floated as being goalies in play (not just for Toronto, but to other teams who may be seeking help in net) leading up to Monday's trade deadline:
In HBO's 24/7 series on the Rangers-Flyers Winter Classic, there was one interaction between a player and an official that made it pretty clear how certain things go down. After the Flyers' Max Talbot gets whistled for not having done much in particular and expresses his displeasure to the ref, he gets a candid response: "I told you you were gonna get one, Max." Later, he clarifies: "That was a bad call, but sometimes you accumulate things."
Well, glad that is settled. There was no clearer example of it in action than on Wednesday night in a game against the Buffalo Sabres and the Boston Bruins. Milan Lucic appeared to score a first-period goal to tie the game 1-1, but it was waved off — Rich Peverley, officials felt, had interfered with Sabres' goalie Ryan Miller.
Poor Mike Smith. In two recent games, the Phoenix Coyotes goalie has made saves — one during overtime and one in a shootout — that may well end up on year-end highlight reels. In both cases, though, he didn't get to go home with the win.
When Marian Gaborik, one of the best goal-scorers in the league this season, earned an overtime penalty shot in the New York Rangers' contest against Phoenix last week, it seemed like the game might be over. But Smith's improbable stick save kept hope and the game alive — for a short while, at least. (The Rangers ultimately won in the sixth round of a shootout.)
Hockey’s Three Stars of Comedy is a monthly feature that will recognize the three NHL personalities from around the league who produced the most comedic fodder for fans. It will appear every month during the regular season, unlike Eric Staal.
The Honorable Mentions
Craig Smith, Nashville Predators
Experts agree that there are three unbreakable records in hockey: Glenn Hall’s 502 consecutive games played in goal, Wayne Gretzky’s 2,857 career points, and Patrick Stefan’s “worst choke job while all alone in front of an empty net.”
While he didn’t quite reach Stefan’s level, Smith came close against the Maple Leafs. Alone and just inches outside of the crease, Smith managed to not only miss the net but somehow fire the puck into the upper deck. He then went to the bench and delivered one of the best “Please take the camera off me so I can try to swallow my own tongue” looks of all time.
There may be no position in all of sports that can more single-handedly and consistently alter the course of a single game, a playoff series, or an entire season than a hockey goalie. (And there's certainly no position in all of sports — or, really, life — that boasts better helmets.) These guys are fearless, flexible, fast — and often fairly unhinged. Here, we salute five of the week's noteworthy performances in net.