Robin Lehner

Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

lehner_crawford_ap.jpg
AP

Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

LAS VEGAS — The first day of NHL free agency is always exciting for hockey fans, particularly the first hour when most of the moves are announced at a rapid rate. Last offseason, the Blackhawks had a quiet few hours before dropping the hammer on the most surprising signing of the day, Robin Lehner, to a one-year deal.

“I think we have the best 1-2 punch in the league is the way I look at it right now,” GM Stan Bowman said on July 1. “I certainly feel really comfortable going into next season, whether Corey Crawford’s in net or Robin Lehner’s in net.”

So does the entire city of Chicago.

More than one month into the 2019-20 season, the goaltending tandem between Crawford and Lehner is exactly what the Blackhawks envisioned it would be. That’s what happens when you pair a Vezina Trophy finalist with a two-time Stanley Cup winner.

"We got two guys who are outstanding," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think they're both going real well now and that's a huge advantage for us no matter who's in the net, we're getting a chance to win. It gives our guys a chance to come through offensively, so they've been big for us."

After starting the season 1-4-0 with a 3.67 goals-against average and .888 percentage, Crawford has been lights out since the calendar flipped to November. He’s 2-0-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in his last four starts, which includes a 39-save performance in a 5-3 win over the Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Lehner has been one of the league’s best from the beginning. His .934 save percentage ranks second among goaltenders with at least six appearances and his goals saved above average at 5-on-5 ranks fourth-best, according to Natural Stat Trick. Crawford's goals saved above average of 4.21 puts him at ninth.

And this is despite the fact the Blackhawks are giving up the most shots on goal per game (37.1), second-most high danger chances per 60 minutes at even strength (13.1) and third-most scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength (29.2).

While the dynamic may have been awkward at first, both goaltenders appear to be making the best of the circumstances and view it as healthy competition.

"I mean, he's doing a great job," Crawford said of Lehner. "Definitely keeping us in games or being a big factor in some wins. I think both of us are just trying to be at our best when we get the chance."

The challenging part of the situation is getting both guys a fair amount of starts. Crawford has been vocal about preferring to start regularly — “it’s a little bit easier when you keep playing games in a row” — and Lehner no doubt feels the same.

"They both want to play 60 games, 80 games maybe,” Colliton said. “That's part of the team. [Patrick Kane] wants to play 60 minutes. It's how it is. Ultimately, we want to make decisions that help the team win and part of that is keeping both guys fresh, keeping both guys playing at a high level and I think that's going to be a benefit for us as the season goes on."

It’s a good problem to have if you’re the Blackhawks, especially if Crawford and Lehner are at the top of their games at the same time like they are right now.

"It's great," Calvin de Haan said. "I think goaltending's the most important position. If you're not keeping the puck out of the net, you're not going to win a lot of games. But those guys are giving us a chance every night and it's really evident the past few weeks here."

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Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Sharks

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USA Today

Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Sharks

Robin Lehner will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they clash with the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Tuesday to close out a four-game road trip. This will be his second straight start and eighth of the season.

Lehner is 3-2-2 this season with a 2.22 goals-against average and .939 save percentage, which ranks third among NHL goaltenders with at least four appearances. 

He's coming off a start in which he stopped 36 of 38 shots for a save percentage of .947 in Sunday's 3-2 overtime victory over the Anaheim Ducks

In six career starts against the Sharks, Lehner is 1-5-0 with a 2.88 goals-against average, .924 save percentage and one shutout. 

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Four takeaways: Patrick Kane wins it in overtime for Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Patrick Kane wins it in overtime for Blackhawks

ANAHEIM — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on Sunday:

1. Patrick Kane lifts Blackhawks to overtime win

[Watch: Patrick Kane's overtime winner]

The Blackhawks couldn't have asked for a better start. They scored the first two goals of the game and allowed zero scoring chances at even strength in the opening period.

But the Ducks pushed back, scoring one in the second and another in the third to even it up at 2-2 at the 6:17 mark. Robin Lehner and the Blackhawks weathered the storm through the end of regulation before Kane led the team to a victory when he buried a pass from Jonathan Toews just 24 seconds into overtime.

"It's always nice to score, nice to score in overtime, nice for the team to get a win," Kane said. "Three out of four points in this California swing so far, it's a good start."

2. Holding the fort down

The Blackhawks had given up 139 shots on goal in their past three games going into Sunday's matchup. That's an average of 46.3, which is an alarming number.

The Blackhawks know that's not a winning formula and they went up against a Ducks team that has averaged the second-fewest shots per game (27.7). This was an opportunity to play a tight defensive game and through the first two periods, they did.

But the Ducks swarmed the Blackhawks in the third period and finished with 38 shots on goal and 19 scoring chances, nine of which came in the final frame. But the Blackhawks held the fort down.

"I thought they came out with a hard push in the third," said Lehner, who stopped 36 of 38 shots for a save percentage of .947. "Obviously they got that power play goal and they kept pushing. They're a good team, but I thought we fought together to stay in it and they had a bunch of chances, we had a few chances. It's nice that we could get the two points in overtime. It was well-needed."

3. Welcome to the NHL, Adam Boqvist

One day after making his NHL debut, Boqvist followed that up by scoring his first career goal in just his second game. And it came at a great time.

[Watch: Adam Boqvist's first NHL goal]

Boqvist put the Blackhawks on the board at the 9:21 mark of the first period, just three seconds after the power play expired, and it was a beauty. He picked the top corner and went bar down on Ducks goaltender Ryan Miller, who's won more than 400 games in the NHL.

Boqvist became the third Blackhawks player to score his first career NHL goal this season, joining Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik.

"Of course, it's a dream," Boqvist said. "You always looked up to scoring first goal and playing in the NHL, so it happened."

4. Winning the special teams battle

The Blackhawks haven't won many special teams battles this season, but they did on Sunday against the Ducks. Barely.

The Blackhawks went 1-for-5 on the power play, but the first goal of the game came three seconds after the man advantage expired so it might as well could have counted as one. 

The Blackhawks also killed off the first three penalties before the Ducks scored on their fourth opportunity in the third period. The Blackhawks had been 15-for-15 on the penalty kill in their last four games before that.

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