Friday, November 8, 2013

Lehnsanity Breaks Loose, But Anderson Still The Rock Of This Senators Team.. And Other Notes

Robin Lehner played a hell of a game last night against the Montreal Canadiens, and in the process has seemingly converted the entire city of Ottawa into believers.

He’s getting closer and closer to being ready as a guy who can be a number-one goalie in this league, and his legions of fans on Twitter have already proclaimed him to be so after a couple of wins.

Just don’t forget, Sens fans, that you’re lucky enough to have an established, in-his-prime elite goaltender in Craig Anderson. Remember that guy? Yesterday’s news, right?

There’s no doubt Lehner has earned the opportunity to play more games this season and loosen Anderson’s hold on the spot, but one month doesn’t undo all that Anderson has done and can do for this Senators team if they want to make the playoffs.

I totally get the instant fandomonium over Lehner. He’s young and he doesn’t have any baggage that comes with being a veteran like Anderson. He’s the new shiny toy. And he’s really, really good.

But so is Craig Anderson. In fact, he’s better. And he’s consistent.

There will come a day when Anderson is moved to make way for Lehner, this team’s future franchise goalie, but it may not happen this season.

Ian Mendes already wrote the only detailed piece you need to read on this subject, so I won't labor the point, but here’s a little reminder of what Craig Anderson can do, in case you forgot so easily after Lehner’s first two wins of the season.


.... The attendance issues for the Senators are embarrassing to the organization and the city, but it probably shouldn’t come as a massive surprise. Some people will dismiss it and point to a larger season-ticket base this season, but I think Daniel Alfredsson leaving is one of the main reasons we're not seeing bigger walk-up crowds. Not just the fact he left, but the doom and gloom it created, along with Eugene Melnyk crying poor and having tantrums on Toronto radio and in the local press. It suddenly created this negativity about the brand that wasn’t there before and the Senators and Melnyk only have themselves to blame for bungling what should have been an easy deal. Sure, endless highway construction and a poor start to the season tends to dampen enthusiasm, but losing Alfie was a public relations nightmare. He WAS the team. A verifiable hero to loyal fans. He was the one marketing tool that was foolproof and the only Senator that non-hockey fans in this city could instantly recognize. Suddenly, the Kanata rink is just not a “cool” place to be anymore. There’s a stink about it and the air still hasn’t cleared. Don’t be so quick to dismiss that intangible romanticism fans have with their team and the players they can call their own. It’s a delicate illusion, but when it’s working, it loosens people’s wallets because they buy into the mythology. When you mess with it, people snap back to reality a little and start thinking of all those responsibilities they need to cover before spending their money on expensive hockey tickets to a team they don’t fully connect with anymore. That being said, it won’t take long to get it back if Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza start leading this team to more wins and create a buzz around town again. But it just won’t be the same for all those thousands of people who spent $200+ dollars on an Alfie jersey and now have to watch him playing for another team.

....So what do the Senators do now on defence? Mark Borowiecki has been more than solid in his first three games and put an exclamation point on it by scoring his first NHL goal against the Canadiens. There’s no way he’s coming out of the lineup, but you have two guys sitting every night in Patrick Wiercioch and Joe Corvo. It’s not a great spot for Wiercioch who needs to be playing and developing, but he’s been too soft in his own end and isn’t making up for it at the other end of the ice. I can see MacLean’s thinking by playing Borowiecki and Eric Gryba in an effort to get this team meaner in its own zone, but last night against the Canadiens, the Senators were still hemmed in and running around without the puck. It was only Lehner that kept the game tied until Ottawa got their offense going in the second period. Gryba in particular struggled moving the puck and I’m guessing he gets yanked for one of Corvo or Wiercioch against Florida on Saturday afternoon. That still doesn’t solve the situation of having too many bodies. The one guy who can go back down without waivers, Borowiecki, is playing too well right now. Yet trading Wiercioch doesn’t make sense either. Giving up on a young defenseman who can score goals is sacrilege in the NHL, but moving Corvo, who’s been fine this season, depletes your depth. Not sure what the solution is, but at some point there’s going to be injuries on the blueline (there always is) and this situation will seem like a blessing.

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