Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks: What to Expect from Goaltending Position

By Tony Gianares
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 19: Robin Lehner of the New York Islanders poses for a portrait with the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy during the 2019 NHL Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 19, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 19: Robin Lehner of the New York Islanders poses for a portrait with the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy during the 2019 NHL Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 19, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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Goaltender Robin Lehner is the Chicago Blackhawks’ biggest signing of free agency. Where does he fit in and how much will he play?

The Blackhawks have had some great goaltending tandems in recent history. Corey Crawford and Ray Emery had a great season in 2012-13, where they both shared the William M. Jennings trophy.

Crawford and Scott Darling had a nice 2014-15 season; Darling replaced a struggling Crawford during the 1st round playoff series against the Nashville Predators and basically won the series for the Blackhawks.

Now, with Crawford and Lehner in net this season, we could very well be looking at the best goaltending tandem in the entire NHL.

I honestly can’t wait to see both goalies on the ice. The question that I have is: who will I be seeing and how often?

It’s hard to believe that Lehner signed with the Blackhawks to strictly be a backup. Maybe Stan Bowman and upper management don’t have much faith in Crawford, or maybe Corey is mulling over retirement.

There’s a lot of what-ifs at the moment, and hopefully, we will get an explanation in the next few weeks, with development camp starting and training camp not far behind.

What Does Robin Lehner Have to Offer?

Robin Lehner will turn 28 on July 24th and he is a big goalie at 6’4″ 240 lbs. One thing that I love about Lehner’s game is that his size doesn’t slow him down. He is pretty agile for a big guy and also has fantastic vision and hand-eye coordination.

Lehner is coming off of a career-best season in which he won both the William M. Jennings Trophy (shared with Thomas Greiss) and Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy; he was also a Vezina Trophy finalist. I’m excited to see him build on his recent success in a Blackhawks sweater.

Let’s take a closer look at Robin Lehner’s background, breakout season, and career stats.

First and foremost, he has had a rollercoaster of an NHL career to this point. His battle with addiction to drugs and alcohol, along with being diagnosed as bipolar with ADHD and PTSD is a hell of a story and truly a testament to the type of person Lehner is. He is battle tested on and off the ice.

Overall, Lehner has put together a respectable body of work in the NHL. While he has had some down seasons, his good seasons outnumber the bad ones.

Lehner has a career record of 97-110-40 with a .918 Sv%, 2.70 GAA, and 14 shutouts. Last season with the New York Islanders was his best by far though. He posted a 25-13-5 record with a .930 Sv%, 2.13 GAA, and 6 shutouts.

If you missed out on seeing him live last season, then you’re in luck. After watching this 2018-19 highlight reel, you’ll instantly become a fan of the beauty they call Robin Lehner. The Chicago Blackhawks are in good hands, literally.

Lehner has the talent to be the number one goalie for a lot of teams, but the Blackhawks still have their longtime number one goalie, Corey Crawford, under contract through the 2019-20 season.

This signing makes me think this season will be a passing of the torch type of situation where Crawford gives way to Lehner. To what capacity remains unknown.

What is the Plan for Goaltending Game Shares?

While I don’t believe there is anything wrong with Corey Crawford at the moment, you never know. In an attempt to cover every possible outcome, I created various scenarios for the 2019-20 season.

Here are a few scenarios that I came up with:

  1. Crawford remains the starter, Lehner becomes backup
  2. An even split between Crawford and Lehner, 41 games a piece
  3. Lehner gets a slight edge in starts over Crawford
  4. Crawford starts the season on LTIR, Lehner-Delia takeover
  5. Crawford retires, Lehner-Delia become official goaltending tandem
  6. Crawford is traded (not likely)

Personally, I would prefer to go with either Option 2 or 3, as they are the best options for both goaltenders. The annual Blackhawks Convention takes place July 26-28 and then training camp starts shortly after that. Hopefully, we’ll have a better idea as to what the official plan is by then.

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