For all the talk spewed by the Ottawa Senators’ organizational personnel regarding “finding our game” and “sticking to the plan” and “bringing it back to
Thank God for Robin Lehner.
We would not have been in this game if Lehner hadn’t been in net. Even Anderson might’ve given up one or two shots on the scoring opportunities the Sens offered the Habs early on. As the game progressed and play on both sides deteriorated—wrist shots changing to wraparound attempts, zone entries and exits getting messier and messier—Lehner took shot after wonky shot, twisting and spinning and twirling in his crease without a care in the world for his dignity, and all the cares in the world for saving the Sens’ posteriors.
He wouldn’t accept a rather rude bouleversement to his dignity from Gallagher, though, and took it up with #11 of the Canadiens in a gentlemanly dispute (i.e. after getting tumbled into the cage by a net-crashing Gallagher, Lehner jumped to his feet to glare at Gallagher while the other Sens restrained Gallagher on Lehner’s behalf in a prudent attempt to avoid unnecessary violence on Lehner’s side). It was a man-crush- and woman-crush-causing moment in the turbulent relationship between Robin and Sens fans around the world.
A look at his stats can only deepen the love. Facing 34 shots (“My hand is sore”, he told reporters after the game, further endearing himself to everyone who has a heart) and garnering a shiny 0.971 save%, Lehner allowed the Sens to play like the Toronto Maple Leafs, effectively. Ottawa only managed to generate a light flurry of 23 shots on Price, who did his share in encouraging the Sens to emulate the Leafs by scrounging up a 0.870 save% for the night.
But really, that behaviour has to be nipped in the bud—or, seeing how it’s been going on for a while, nipped in the fully-opened bloom. Checking game stats at Extra Skater, the only Senators whose Corsi For % at 5-on-5 was over 50% were Erik Karlsson and Milan Michalek (along with Grant, Kassian and Neil, but they only played 4.5, 3.2 and 8.2 minutes respectively). While MacArthur, Turris and Ryan were all sub-50% Corsi For, all three were on for three goals, and in MacArthur’s case, four. They continue to be solid defensively, even while getting outshot. Even as good as they are, however, the Ottawa Senators cannot contend in the NHL as a one-line team, especially one that cannot for the life of it get set up in the offensive zone during a power play.
One more thing to note—every single Senators player that took a face-off was over 50% in face-off wins. That includes Spezza, Turris, Ryan (who took 1), Smith, Conacher (who also took 1) and Grant. Even Turris, who optically has looked terrible in the dot, won one more than he lost for a 52.4% win percentage, and Smith racked up 10 wins to 3 losses for a scintillating 76.9% win percentage. Looks like Captain Jason has been leading the way by example.
The players talk a lot about wanting to win games for their goalie. So far, it’s Lehner that’s been winning games for the players. We’re trundling along on a 0.500 track at the moment. Time to bring everything together and form some kind of cohesive game that will allow the Senators to become a team with purpose.