Is there a goaltending controversy developing between the pipes for the Ottawa Senators? I think there might be. Entering the 2013-14 NHL campaign, it was pretty obvious that American Olympic hopeful Craig Anderson was the clear-cut number one starter for the Sens. A minor injury and inconsistent play has altered that perception.
Robin Lehner, the big backup from Sweden, has played strongly while called upon, leading to him getting the nod again today despite starting yesterday in a 4-2 win over division rivals the Detroit Red Wings. Lehner faced 36 Red Wing shots, stopping 34 to secure victory.
By the numbers, Lehner has been better than Anderson, posting a .940 save percentage in 10 games this year. Anderson, conversely, has struggled to repeat last season’s success, only capable of a .900 SV % through 15 games played so far this season.
Head coach Paul MacLean doesn’t enjoy the luxury of allowing Anderson plenty of time to solve his current goaltending problems. Qualifying for the playoffs will be intensely contested this season, and every point counts. The coach says he’s going to run with his best players:
"The rule around here is our best players play. Last night he was one of our best players," says MacLean on starting Lehner. #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) November 24, 2013
The future of Ottawa’s goaltending is in good hands with the highly touted Lehner, regardless of Anderson’s ability to shine. However, many thought Lehner would be waiting a while before he earned the right to play often.
This situation is awfully similar to one the Boston Bruins experienced in the 2009-10 season. Thomas battled injury all season, allowing Rask to take over as the number one. Rask was the man in the playoffs – the B’s lost in the second round to the Flyers, blowing a 3-0 series lead. The following year it was assumed Rask had won the job. Tim Thomas did not let that happen. Tank stormed back into the spotlight, winning the Vezina, Conn Smythe, and Stanley Cup in 2011. Rask was forced to wait his turn again. Lehner may steal the job now, however, his hold on it will be constantly challenged for as long as Anderson is around.