Buffalo Sabres starting goaltender Robin Lehner has missed the majority of the season with a high ankle sprain suffered on opening night. After playing in 20 games since his return, Lehner is again having issues with the ankle. With only 11 games remaining in the season, should the Sabres consider shutting down Lehner?
The Sample Size
A few weeks ago Lehner spoke to the media about how he could still feel the pain in his ankle at times. It’s something he believed he’d have to just battle through for the remainder of the season. However, with Lehner missing practice yesterday for what Head Coach Dan Blysma described as “maybe slightly more than a maintenance day”. The 24-year-old goaltender spent the day meeting with the doctors and being evaluated.
Buffalo has only 11 games remaining in the season and may need to make a decision with Lehner that benefits the club for next season. Next season is a big year for the organization and they’re going to need their starting goaltender to be 100 percent.
I don’t see what more the Sabres could gain in putting the Swede in the net six to eight more times. Since returning from injury on January 15th, Lehner has been one of the best performing goalies in the league. His 92.46 save percentage
ranks 8th among all goaltenders with at least 500 minutes. In his 20 games Lehner has only allowed three or more goals eight times. The big net minder has struggled to get goal support in a lot of his appearances. His complete stat line features a 5-9-5 record with a 2.47 goals against average. His GAA ranks him 27th among all goalies with at least 20 games played.
The big question is; do the Sabres believe they’ve seen a big enough sample size to feel comfortable in goal going into next season? In only a brief window, Lehner has shown he’s up to the challenge of being a number one goaltender in the NHL. His size and athleticism are impressive and he has a burning desire to win. When looking at his numbers it’s also important to remember the 6’5 keeper is performing at this level at less than 100 percent. The lower body is extremely important for goaltenders and Lehner is getting it done with one and a half legs in theory.
The organization is stacked with goaltenders at the professional level, so they won’t be lacking in that area without Lehner. In the AHL the organization is carrying three goaltenders including Linus Ullmark who already spent time with the Sabres. On the Sabres roster itself, the club is currently carrying three goaltenders as well, including Lehner. The third goalie on the roster is newly signed Jason Kasdorf who just finished his college season with RPI. Kasdorf was the third piece acquired in the Evander Kane trade along with Zach Bogosian. Kasdorf is still dealing with an injury he suffered at the end of the season, but should be ready to practice in about a week. If the Sabres do decide to shut down Lehner, they’ll need a call up until Kasdorf can get back on the ice.
At the end of the day if the ankle injury has any risk of becoming worse by playing, it should be a no brainer for the Sabres to shut Lehner down. Nothing more can be gained in pushing the envelope and they should feel comfortable in their goaltending situation going into next season.