Josh Ho-Sang’s appearance in the Islanders roster has been phenomenal, and Devon Toews’ recall right before the roster freeze has everyone buzzing for so many good reasons. It is beyond time that the Isles take advantage of the prospects they’ve been sitting on for years.
However, the rookies are not the only players who deserve some recognition lately. Robin Lehner needs some, too.
His performance Tuesday night against the Coyotes was impressive. Lehner only allowed 1 goal on 37 shots. Sure, it may have been an incredibly early goal, but it was his first game in a week, and the rest of the team wasn’t looking sharp, aggressive, or even alive yet either. With his sporadic appearance due to injuries, it is understandable that he wasn’t perfectly ready to go immediately. During the game, Lehner stopped every Coyote power play and shorthanded chance. He took a puck to the shoulder where his padding ends and simply shook it off. He may have needed an extra five minutes to settle in, but he was perfect after that.
His performance Tuesday looked a lot like his Islander debut — when he shut out the Sharks. Yes, his last five games prior to Tuesday were not the best (1-2-2), but neither were the rest of the team. Goalies have an even harder time stopping the puck when the defense falls apart in front of them or the offense gives the puck away and reacts too slowly. Yet fans are far too quick to just blame the goalie before they consider if the defense was out of place or in the way.
This is not to say that Lehner is better than Griess. But he can be Griess’ equal. Their numbers are incredibly similar, despite the fact that Griess has more wins: Griess’s goals against average is 2.50 and his save percentage is .919; Lehner’s goals against average is 2.54 and his save percentage is .917. Lehner only has two more losses than Griess, and both came in shoot outs, which is hardly fair when your offense rarely scores in shoot outs.
It’s also hardly fair that Trotz defends Griess and blames the rest of the team for a loss, but then says he is unimpressed with Lehner a few weeks later. The fanbase needs to have more confidence in Lehner, too. It’s not a coincidence that the entire team plays better in Nassau where the fans are almost literally breathing down their necks. There they have the extra encouragement to be better, the extra confidence in themselves. Every single Islander has said, at some point or another, that the fans are the reason they find the ability to elevate their game in the Coliseum.
The more Lehner plays, the less stiff he’ll get, and the more his performance will improves. If he started the season with a shut out, how well can he end it once he finds his rhythm again? Improvement starts with confidence, and as soon as everyone else shows a little confidence in Lehner, he’ll find it in himself, too. After all, not everyone’s confidence stems from a prove-them-wrong attitude like Ho-Sang’s.
Give Lehner some extra encouragement, and who knows how much better he’ll become.
Featured Image: New York Post