While it may not have been popular with HNIC commentator Greg Millen who called it a "careless penalty", I absolutely loved that Robin Lehner took an unexpected shot at Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin at the end of the second period, knocking him down to the ice as the two goalies skated by each other on their way to the locker room.
Critics will point to the fact that the winning goal was scored on the ensuing two-man advantage power-play, but the Incredible Shrinking Goalie Brian Elliott was much more complicit in the losing of this game than Lehner was (not to mention a complete lack of coverage in front of the net by the defense tonight).
Yes, the Senators lost again (who's keeping count anymore?) but the unexpected swagger that Lehner showed in this game after he came on in relief of Elliott made you realize how meek this team has been all season by contrast. He made 23 saves, many of them big, including a few with a lightning quick leg pad, but most importantly, he wanted to win more than any other Senator on the ice.
This kid has got a nasty streak. Big time.
He didn't hesitate to get into a scrum in the second period and it even looked as though he and Poulin were going to scrap but the Islanders goalie understandably backed off at the last second. With Rick Dipietro already getting crushed in a fight this week, it was not the time for Poulin to get injured too. And if he would have tangled with Lehner, here's betting he would have been.
Known for his intensity, it looked like Lehner was disappointed that Poulin backed off and he let him know by giving him a surprise shove after the 2nd period horn and got a penalty for it. He almost survived the 2 man disadvantage with some big stops but one got by him and he'll take the statistical loss while Elliott gets an unfair no-decision.
But you have to love the swagger. Swagger is something this team desperately lacks. They used to have a goalie like that in Ray Emery but now the only players who have that edge are Chris Neil and Matt Carkner. The Isles were so unintimidated by this meek group of Sens that Robbie Schremp decided to "bag" Brian Lee with his glove in front of the net and skate away, knowing that nothing was going to happen to him.
What's clear is that the Senators have a goalie. Whether Cory Clouston decides to use him for the balance of the season is another question, but Lehner already looks ten times as big as Elliott, ten times as competitive as Elliott, and someone who can actually make big saves at crucial points in the game despite playing behind the softest defense core in the NHL, and probably in the Senators history.
Clouston already went on the record this week saying that Lehner playing is not the ideal situation, but with the utter collapse of his pet player Elliott this season, Clouston is quickly running out of reasons to keep Lehner out of the net.
Then again, the Senators have long run out of reasons to keep Clouston employed while the team completely falls apart in an embarrassing and potentially damaging fashion.
Stop to think about it rationally for a moment.
This team just lost their 9th game in a row, this time to the New York Islanders. They've won only 1 of their last 16 games.
And yet the team, maddeningly, remains status quo. It's getting to the point that it looks like they are tanking on purpose now just by their complete inaction.
It's only going to get worse out west on the upcoming road trip.
Even just on humanitarian grounds, how is it that Clouston is still behind the bench? This season is not only ruining the Senators for the foreseeable future, it's ending the career of Clouston as a professional.
I find it completely unbelievable that either Greg Carvel or Rick Walmsley haven't been given a shot to finish out the season here.