11/01/2012 9:14 AM
By: Nicole Sorce (@nicole_sorce)
On October 13, the Binghamton Senators announced that defenseman Andre Benoit would serve as captain for the 2012-2013 season, along with defenseman Eric Gryba and forward Mike Hoffman as alternates. However, head coach Luke Richardson won't solely rely on those three players to provide leadership to the youngest team in the American Hockey League.
"Goaltending is definitely a key position for us to be looking for leadership," Richardson explained, "and in a lot of the times, that's just a quiet leadership - just doing their job everyday. That helps the players feel a lot more confident to go out and play the best they can."
The Ottawa Senators and Richardson particularly have high expectations for 21-year old backstop Robin Lehner, which include becoming a consistent starter and playing a high end of 60 games. Last season for the B-Sens, Lehner compiled 2,192 minutes in 40 games while making 1,156 saves to yield a .907 save percentage.
Photo courtesy of Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC
"Robin Lehner is a Calder Cup champion and MVP, and I think he shows and he's already shown that he can win the big games," Richardson said. "Robin is expected to be a big part of this team this season, and Nathan Lawson is another experienced guy who has played games in the NHL. With these two guys, we have a great tandem to start with."
To date, Lehner ranks seventh in the AHL with a 1.80 goals against average and comes in tenth in save percentage at .938 with a 3-2 record. Collectively, B-Sens goaltenders Lehner, Lawson, and Ben Bishop have posted a 2.80 GAA and a .912 SV% through the first month of the season.
Ben Bishop - Photo courtesy of Team Shred
"If we can just get them playing consistently and making sure that they're just worried about stopping the puck and being good teammates, we'll be in good shape," said Richardson. "If the team isn't playing well, that will be the coach's problem, not the goaltender's problem, to be upset about."
Richardson's point was given its justice during the B-Sens' home game against the Syracuse Crunch on October 20. Lehner carried his team with a 5-0 lead until halfway through the second period, when Syracuse goalie Riku Helenius dropped his gloves and challenged Lehner to a dual. Nathan Lawson took over in goal after Lehner's departure, but the game's chaos level just heightened from there, causing the B-Sens to fall to the Crunch, 6-5, in overtime.
Nathan Lawson - Photo courtesy of Just Sports Photography
"If the goaltenders get upset about what's going on in front of them, they're not going to be able to stop the puck," said Richardson.
However, the incident also confirmed that looking to the goaltending position for additional leadership was the right decision. Following the goalie fight and loss to the Crunch, one of Lehner's Twitter followers sent him a tweet.
"Just don't start any more fights. You got the opponent all fired up, and they blew the place up!" the fan wrote.
Lehner's response not only confirms that he takes his role seriously, but it also proves that the young Binghamton roster has plenty of leadership at all ages to go around the locker room.
"He challenged me man….. :) 5-0? How would I look?" tweeted @RobinLehner.