In today’s goalie news, we’ll wish a happy birthday to a legend of the past, take a look at Robin Lehner’s impressive start, and dig into the weekly review.
Lehner Goes the Distance
The Chicago Blackhawks made the decision to bring Lehner in as a free agent this summer, likely due to uncertainty about Corey Crawford’s health. While it’s an expensive tandem (the two are owed a combined $11 million this season), when healthy, it’s one of the better one-two punches in the league. And on Sunday, Lehner was at the absolute top of his game.
The Blackhawks were locked in a nailbiter with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Lehner was the difference between victory and defeat. He made 53 saves on 57 shots, including eight of 10 on the power play, and 10 against elite goal scorer Auston Matthews. The Blackhawks scored five goals on 34 shots, and thanks to Lehner, it was enough for the victory. The goalie had strong praise for his teammates and his opponents after the game.
They’re a great team. We came out good and capitalized on our chances, but they were pretty good in the first, too. They’re a good hockey team over there, and they start getting some momentum, they got the goal there, it’s 4-2, and of course, they’re gonna get some life. Some of the best players on the world on that team so I give our guys a lot of credit. We fought hard.Robin Lehner after the Blackhawks’ 5-4 victory over the Maple Leafs
Lehner has been strong so far splitting time with Crawford. Prior to this performance he was 3-3-2 with a 2.33 goals against average (GAA) and an impressive .935 save percentage (SV%). In his postgame interview, he looked a little sore, nursing an injury from taking a shot off his collarbone. It’s something to monitor, but likely not a major concern.
Happy Birthday, “Apple Cheeks!”
On this day in 1926, the world met Harry Lumley for the first time. Lumley would go on to become a Maple Leafs’ legend, guarding the net during the difficult mid-1950s. But before he was a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame or a Vezina Trophy winner (in 1954) with the Maple Leafs, he was a 17-year-old goaltender stepping onto the professional ice for the first time with the Detroit Red Wings.
The young Lumley earned the nickname “Apple Cheeks” because of the reddish complexion of his face when he smiled or blushed. But the nickname and the smile hid a daring and headstrong goaltender who didn’t wear arm pads because “the bruises go away.”
Lumley played 16 seasons in the NHL and competed in 803 games, still good for 16th on the all-time list. Though he only won 330 of those games, he did capture a Vezina Trophy, a Stanley Cup (with the Red Wings in 1950), and retire as a Maple Leafs and Red Wings legend. Before his passing in 1998, his hometown of Owen Sound, Ontario renamed the community ice rink (and home of the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack) as the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre in his honor.
Week in Review
Connor Hellebuyck is quietly putting together a strong year with the Winnipeg Jets, though the season is still young. He leads the league in goals saved above average (GSAA) at 10.56, and is a major part of the reason the Jets have remained somewhat relevant despite the chaos surrounding Dustin Byfuglien and their defensive core.
Jordan Binnington has also recovered impressively from a somewhat rocky start to his season. In his last four starts, he is 4-0 with a .946 SV%. He’s helped the Blues collect seven straight wins and capture the best record in the Western Conference.
Sadly, it seems that the chances of Cory Schneider ever returning to any semblance of his former Jennings Trophy-winning form are dwindling by the start. On Friday, he made his first start in over a week, and allowed four goals on 34 shots, actually making it his best start of the season. He has the worst GAA (4.59) in the league among goalies with multiple starts, and his minus-9.96 GSAA is second-worst only to Jonathan Quick.
Considering the contract the Florida Panthers gave him, Sergei Bobrovsky’s start is panic-inducing, although two of his last three starts have been an improvement. He is currently 3-4-1 with a .884 SV% and a 3.39 GAA, and is immediately behind Schneider at minus-9.10 GSAA.
Backup of the Week: Greiss is Nice
Thomas Greiss has quietly assembled a very nice career resurgence for himself with the New York Islanders over the last five seasons. In fact, he doesn’t get nearly enough credit as a reliable backup and tandem partner, something he has been throughout his career. And this week, he showed exactly why the Islanders have stuck with him.
Greiss had two fantastic starts this week, allowing just one goal in each. He played the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 5 and stopped 27 of 28 shots, then played the Florida Panthers on Nov. 9 and stopped 37 of 38 shots. That’s good for a .970 SV% across two starts. Greiss is also second in the league with an incredible 9.06 GSAA.
The team’s strong goaltending is a big part of the reason they won 10 games in a row and currently sit in second place in their division behind the red hot Washington Capitals. The Islanders bet big on Semyon Varlamov in the offseason, and so far, the tandem of Varlamov and Greiss is paying off in a major way.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.