Keep it simple. A rule that should apply to most goalies when it comes to playing the puck, especially Robin Lehner. Last night, with the game tied at two in the 3rd period, Lehner opted to rim the puck around the boards instead of making a safer play to Thomas Hickey behind the net. It proved costly.
Sebastian Aho knocked Lehner’s pass down, fed Justin Williams in front of the net for the game-winner and now the Islanders are on the brink of elimination. Perhaps, he didn’t know Hickey was an available option behind him. Perhaps, he felt he could make the play and didn’t anticipate Aho getting to his spot in time. Either way, Lehner has turned the puck over at a higher rate than any other goalie left in these playoffs.
This is not the first time that Lehner has put himself in a tough spot with bad puck handling. On this play, it looks like Thomas Hickey and Lehner weren’t on the same page. Hickey stayed in front of the net while Lehner rimmed the puck around the boards, leading to a turnover and what was a sure goal had Leddy not saved his goalie with a save of his own.
Lehner is the only goalie left in the playoffs to complete fewer than 80% of his passes, right in line with his regular season performance that was good for 88th out of 93 goalies, beating out a glamorous list of Charlie Lindgren (one game), Ed Pasquale (three), Tristan Jarry (two), Maxime Lagace (one) and Colin Delia (16). The Hurricanes have done their homework and are aggressive whenever Lehner has the puck, trying to force mistakes and it’s worked so far. They get in the passing lanes before the puck even comes off Lehner’s stick.
If Lehner can’t feel the forecheck coming his way better, he needs to simplify his game when handling the puck, or plays like Justin Williams game-winner in Game 3 will continue to happen.