Far be it from me to second-guess a Jack Adams Trophy winner, but I am going to do it anyway.
Something has been bothering me for about a week now, and despite the fact that I had a facebook conversation about it and was chastised for suggesting it before the fact, I have a minor problem with how the Ottawa Senators have handled their goaltending situation early on this season.
I’m not sure if the first three games would have gone any differently, or if it will affect the next 3, but I personally think that the resources at his disposal could have been used more effectively over the first two weeks of the season.
First off, starting Craig Anderson for the opener in Buffalo was a no-brainer, and he played his ass off in earning the shutout. But, despite saying publicly that if he played well he would start in the back-to-back against the Leafs is where the mis-step might have occurred. For a goalie who didn’t play much in the pre-season, throwing Anderson right back in after a tough outing the night before during the first real action of the season might have been asking a little much. Anderson’s stats against the Leafs in his career hasn’t been lights out, and Robin Lehner had decent stats (albeit only 1 opportunity) against the provincial rival. I can’t say that the result in Toronto would have been any different, but maybe a rested goalie without a lower body (groin?) injury might have gotten a toe on one of those two cross-crease passes that Mason Raymond and Dave Bolland scored on, or might have been fresher during the Leafs’ comeback from the 4-2 deficit in the last 22 minutes of regulation.
Second of all, I assume Lehner will get the start in one of these two back-to-back games, either tonight in San Jose, or more likely tomorrow afternoon in Anaheim. Either way, it will have been 13 or 14 days since Lehner last saw game action, and that was a 6-2 loss to the New York Islanders‘ split squad on the last night of exhibition. That is a long time for any goalie to sit around and not see action, and then he will be thrown into the fire, expected to perform.
Again, I don’t think playing twice last weekend had any effect on Anderson in the LA game Wednesday night, but not starting Lehner against the Leafs might have some long-term impact on the team.
With all due respect to the two names I am about to mention, its not like Anderson has Eddie Lack or Jeff Zatkoff playing behind him. Lehner is a proven prospect who will in all likelihood one day inherit the starting job. He is more than capable of filling in on a regular basis, especially in the back to back situations.
The recent injury, the tough game in Buffalo and the extended sitting for Lehner as a result make me wonder if the Senators might have been better served playing Lehner against the Leafs one week ago.
That’s just my opinion, and although neither one was technically “wrong”, in the bigger picture and long term for both players and the team, I think it might have been a mis-step.