After the Blackhawks signed Robin Lehner to a one-year deal on July 1, GM Stan Bowman came out and said that he believes "we have the best 1-2 punch in the league is how I look at it right now" by adding a Vezina Trophy finalist to a team that already has a two-time Stanley Cup champion in Corey Crawford.
The organization viewed this as a 1 and 1A situation and not the traditional starter and backup, even though that conversation will be lingering all season long. But by making his sixth start of the season on Tuesday, Lehner has surpassed Crawford in appearances this season and it's because the former is the hot hand right now.
In fact, Lehner has been one of the best goaltenders through the first month. Here are some numbers to back it up, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick:
— Lehner has saved his team 6.14 goals this season, which ranks fourth among goaltenders.
— Lehner is averaging 1.01 goals saved above average per 60 minutes, which ranks second. That's essentially one goal per game. For reference, Andrei Vasilevskiy's rate was 0.49 last season and he won the Vezina Trophy.
— Only seven other goaltenders with a minimum of five starts are facing more high-danger shots against per 60 minutes than Lehner (9.7). One of them is Crawford (10.6). Lehner is stopping an average of 8.2 of those shots.
— No goaltender is seeing more pucks from a closer distance than Lehner, with an average shot distance of 30.8 feet. And yet his .936 save percentage still ranks fourth in the NHL.
— And to highlight just how great he was in Tuesday’s 48-save performance that ended in a 3-0 loss to Nashville, Lehner stopped 22 of 25 slot shots and nine of 12 inner slot shots, saving his team an extra 2.45 goals above average, according to The Point.
The Blackhawks are doing their goaltenders zero favors right now and Lehner has been up to the task. And it's scary to wonder where the Blackhawks would be without him.
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