My goal is to provide entertaining and thought-provoking articles and great videos. Thanks for visiting and I hope that you come again!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bryan Murray, Lehner, Bishop and Auld

If you don’t know anything about Robin Lehner, the Senators acquisition of Ben Bishop, the injury to Craig Anderson, and the brutal play of his back-up goalie Alex Auld, you may want to first read my article entitled, “Senators Trade Draft Pick To Blues For Bishop — Who Got The Best Of The Deal?”

Is Bryan Murray (Vice President and General Manager of the Senators) going to make the correct decision regarding his goaltenders or is he going to continue to ignore the fact that Alex Auld is having a brutal season with no signs of significant improvement? How brutal? In 14 games he has a Save Percentage of .884 and a GAA of 3.35.

After Craig Anderson lacerated a tendon in his pinky finger (while in his kitchen), 20 year old Robin Lehner was brought up from Binghamton (Senators AHL affiliate) and Auld started the next game which was at home against the Bruins. Boston won by a score of 5-3 and Auld let in four goals in 37 shots, which gave him a Save Percentage in the game of 0.892—not impressive at all.  

In the following game against the Islanders, Lehner was given the start and he performed outstanding, stopping 28 of 30 shots which equated to a Save Percentage of .933. He was the 1st Star in the game.

The Senators then went on the road to play the Bruins. The Senators had not beaten them this year and Robin Lehner was given his second straight start. He totally shut-down the Bruins by stopping 32 shots and earning his first NHL shutout! Once again, he was named the 1st Star in the game.

The Senators returned home to play the Blackhawks and Lehner was given his third straight start. He played great in stopping 37 shots in a 2-1 loss, and was named the 2nd Star of the game.   

The Senators then traveled to Florida to play the Panthers. The entire Ottawa team did not play well, including Lehner who was not as good as his previous three starts. The Panthers won the game 4-2.

Then Bryan Murray decided to send Lehner back to Binghamton and to bring up Ben Bishop.

Regarding Bishop, I quote from my article on the Senators trade to get him:

“On Sunday, the Senators traded a 2nd Round draft pick in 2013 in exchange for Blues minor-league goalie Ben Bishop. Bishop is a tall guy at 6' 7'' but is only 215 pounds. He played seven games for the Blues in the 2010-2011 season and had three wins and four losses, and in those games his Save Percentage was .899, GAA 2.76, and he had one shutout. Two years prior he had six games with the Blues and did not do as well. Besides those two stints in the NHL, from 2007 and onward he was with the Blues AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen. He posted good numbers for the Rivermen but he has yet to prove that he can be a regular NHL net-minder.”

Bishop deserved another chance at the NHL that is for sure but the move to bring him up only makes sense if Murray’s intention is to see if he can play better than Auld so that Auld can be put on waivers. If Murray does not already consider Lehner as his #1 healthy goalie then he is insane. It is hard to read Murray because to complicate the matter he believes that Anderson will be ready for the playoffs (Anderson is already skating); and, because just after acquiring Bishop, Murray was boasting about Bishop’s AHL experience and was suggesting that he had a good chance of winning a spot over Lehner.  

Bishop was given the start in the following game against the Lightning, in Tampa. The Senators beat the Lightning by a score of 7-3 with the help of two empty net goals. Bishop let in three of 28 shots, thus giving him a dismal Save Percentage of .893.

The Senators returned to Ottawa to play the Rangers on Wednesday, March 7 and Bishop was given his second straight start. The Senators won by a score of 4-1 and Bishop played well in making 25 saves. However, it was reported that he looked nervous at the beginning of the game and that he allowed a poor goal. Nevertheless, he was declared the 1st Star of the game. Many in the media could not help but overdo the praise for one good game, with some saying that he was destined to be a great NHL goaltender and they had to boast of his huge stature in the net. Why not be honest and wait to see if he proves himself an NHL goalie, rather than puffing the guy up more than he deserves? It was one good game and he had never before proven himself to be NHL-caliber so why be deceptive? Hopefully he will fulfill the undeserved praise and we shall see if he can continue with another win today (Saturday) when the Sens host the Sabres.  

Who Deserves to be the Senators Starting Goalie?

According to performance, it is obvious that the starting goalie should be Lehner. If Bishop plays well in two more games then Brian Murray should have all that he needs to make a decision to put Auld on waivers. Auld has had 14 games and has yet to prove that he deserves the back-up spot. He played well for the Canadiens last year but that was then and this is now. The playoffs are coming and Murray had better make a decision based on giving the Senators the best chance to win in the playoffs—period, rather than who has played the most NHL games or who is making the most money.  

Anderson may be able to return for the playoffs but it would be utterly foolish to play him unless he is at the very top of his game. Lehner just showed in his recent four games that he can do the job. Two 1st Star selections and one 2nd Star selection in four games is better than Anderson has done in any four consecutive games that he has played this year. Anderson was not having a great year and then improved in the latter half. In 56 games he has a Save Percentage of .913 (25th in the league), a GAA of 2.85 (36th in the league), and only three shutouts (23rd in the league). If the decision was mine, after Bishop plays two more games, I would have Lehner starting every game except back-to-back games, and I would continue to play him into the playoffs as long as his performance remained exceptional. If Anderson comes back in time I would still start Lehner in the playoffs because it is unlikely that Anderson would be “game sharp.” No matter how unfairly Murray might treat Lehner, Lehner will rise above it and will almost surely be an elite goalie in the NHL. Nobody should be surprised if he turns out as good as fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist.

All said, Bryan Murray has some crucial decisions to make regarding his goaltending and it is going to be interesting to see what happens. If Lehner is not brought back up I would be extremely surprised and disappointed. 

TJ Stanley