Lehner confident his time will come with Senators
Top goaltending prospect knows 'it's a marathon, not a sprint' on road to NHL job
|Goaltender Robin Lehner gave a large glimpse of his potential on Feb. 28, when he stopped all 32 shots he faced in backstopping the Senators to a 1-0 win over the Bruins in Boston (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images).
The journey isn't always intended to be short and sweet.
So it is that Robin Lehner — as anxious as he is to display his wares in the National Hockey League on a full-time basis — knows it isn't necessarily a race to the finish line. Especially when you're a 21-year-old guy with a world of time left to grow.
"It's a marathon, it's not a sprint," said the native of Goteborg, Sweden, when asked about spending the last two seasons with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League. "(The Senators) are doing what they think is best for me. They're trying to develop me as good as they want. I'm an asset to them and they want me to do as well as possible.
"I've got to trust them, too. They've got lots of hockey experience in this organization. I'm only 21 — I don't know as much. I'm just eager to play and eager to show myself."
Lehner, the organization's top goaltending prospect, certainly give his bosses an eyeful during a brief stint in Ottawa last season. In five appearances — four of them during a spell when starter Craig Anderson was sidelined by injury — he posted a 3-2-0 mark with an impressive 2.01 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. Included was a 1-0 blanking of the Bruins on Feb. 28 in Boston, when Lehner turned aside all 32 shots he faced.
"I've got to deserve the opportunity first and that's what I'm (trying to prove) now in the summer and heading to camp, to get them to want me to play here," he said. "That was just the thing for me, with the game in Boston and a few other games I played up here, to show myself and show other people that I can play at this level.
"I know I've got a long way to go and some technical things I need to work on, and I have to get more stable and be a little bit more calm in the net."
While the Senators have Anderson and Ben Bishop both currently in the fold on one-way contracts, Lehner — who's on a two-way deal — still intends to come to training camp in September with the thought of landing a job in Ottawa.
"People can look at it that way," said Lehner, a second-round pick (46th overall) by the Senators in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. "This is a business and, of course, they're going to do things money wise for the organization. That's not my job. I have one job, to stop pucks and to try to stop as many as I can. That's what it all comes down to in the end.
"You've got to believe it's realistic (to make the team). I'm trying to prepare myself as well as I can to be able to get a spot. You never know. You go for it and you see what happens. I'm looking forward to it and I'm excited."
Lehner's star has never shone brighter in the organization than in June 2011, when he backstopped the B-Sens to their first Calder Cup championship in franchise history and was named the most valuable player in the playoffs. But last season, by contrast, was a struggle, both for Lehner and his teammates, who failed to make the playoff party. However, he chooses to put a more positive light on things now.
"Now, when I look back at it ... it was a lot of good learning experiences," said Lehner. "I think I developed as a goalie and I think I've developed and matured a lot as a (person). I'm starting to really know what it's all about. Last year, it some ways, it didn't go as we wanted, but it was a really good experience for us, too.
"Sometimes, that happens. Up her in Ottawa, it felt really good when I got the chance. The main thing for me is (having) the feeling that I got to be a better goalie. And I think I can stop more pucks this season."