Robin Lehner’s first season as a Buffalo Sabre is going to end the way it began: with the 24-year-old goaltender on the shelf with an ankle injury.
Lehner fell injured before the midway mark of his first regular season contest as a Sabre on Oct. 8. The injury, a high-ankle sprain sustained against the same Ottawa Senators team that had traded him to Buffalo only months earlier, wound up keeping Lehner on the shelf for 42 games, and he didn’t return to action until a Jan. 15 game against the Boston Bruins.
On March 18, two days after an overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens in which Lehner made 19 saves, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma announced that Lehner was again nursing the same injury and would be day-to-day while the team evaluated him. But Lehner won’t be returning this season as the Sabres have announced he will miss the final five games of the campaign following ankle surgery.
All told, Lehner will finish the season with only 21 games in a Sabres uniform during his first campaign in Buffalo. The injury trouble may be worrisome but, injury issues aside, Lehner’s numbers on a Sabres team that’s slowly rebuilding are promising for the future if the season-ending surgery can help Lehner get back to full health.
Through his 21 games this season, Lehner maintained a .924 save percentage and posted a 2.47 goals-against average to go along with one shutout. Those are the best numbers of Lehner’s career in any of his three seasons in which he has seen at least 20 games of action, and he showed a vast improvement this season when it came to save percentage at 5-on-5.
Lehner’s SP numbers over the past two seasons with Ottawa were below average in the limited time he saw with his best 5-on-5 SP coming in 2013-14 when he posted a .919 mark over 1,100 minutes of playing time. This season, though, Lehner posted a .928 SP at 5-on-5 in 900 minutes of action. Of the 51 goaltenders to play at least 900 minutes this season at 5-on-5, Lehner ranked 20th in the league in SP.
If Lehner’s play this season is indicative of what can be expected next season, the Sabres’ acquisition of the netminder from the Senators could prove to be a wise move. Goaltending prospects Linus Ullmark, Jason Kasdorf and Cal Petersen can all use some time developing in the AHL, and if Lehner takes a step back before he becomes a restricted free agent next season, the Sabres can reassess their goaltending situation then.