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Fantasy Spin: Lehner valuable in deep, keeper leagues

by Pete Jensen

It hasn't been easy for Ottawa Senators goaltenders through 15 games this season.

Craig Anderson (4-4-2) and Robin Lehner (1-2-2) are the only goalie teammates in the NHL to each face 40-plus shots on goal on three separate occasions in 2013-14. Ottawa has won once in those six games and is allowing a League-worst 38.1 per game.

To top things off, Craig Anderson injured his neck in a collision Sunday against the Dallas Stars and is day-to-day.

Thus, the burden on backup goalie Robin Lehner seemed even heavier entering Tuesday's road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Luckily for the Senators and fantasy owners, the 22-year-old answered the call by stopping 32 of 33 shots for his first win of the season.

With Craig Anderson sidelined, Robin Lehner has a chance to prove to the Ottawa Senators that he can be a future No. 1 goalie in this League. (Photo: Getty Images)

The young goalie has delivered quality numbers for fantasy owners so far, outside of the wins category. His goals-against average (2.38) and save percentage (.943, 3rd in NHL) through six games are significantly better than Anderson (3.14, .912), who was widely considered a top-10 fantasy goalie entering 2013-14.

Lehner fared well in those categories last season, meaning he's capable of putting up quality numbers despite facing 35-plus shots seven times in 12 regular-season games. Ottawa allowed 31.3 shots per game in 2012-13 (T-23rd in NHL), so fantasy owners can expect things to even out a bit as the season goes on, especially with defenseman Erik Karlsson healthy.

Even when Lehner faced 57 shots on goal against the New York Islanders last Friday, he stopped 53 and helped his team earn a point. Though his game remains a work in progress, he's capable of battling for his team and fantasy owners. Only Ryan Miller (4) has more games with 40-plus saves than Lehner (3), so the fact he's producing solid numbers given the circumstances is impressive.

So if you're an Anderson owner or looking for a bench goalie to contribute, Lehner (22 percent owned in Yahoo leagues) warrants consideration. But, as always, there are two sides to the story.

Anderson, for the time being, is not going anywhere. He's under contract for this season and next, and Lehner will be a restricted free agent at season's end. Once Anderson is healthy again, this is a timeshare situation at absolute best.

Robin Lehner
Goalie - OTT
RECORD: 1-2-2
GAA: 2.38 | SVP: 0.943
But on the flip side, the Senators know what transpired with Ben Bishop. Between Anderson and Lehner, the crowded crease in Ottawa prompted a trade that sent Bishop to the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. So far in 2013-14, Bishop is 9-2-0 with top-10 totals in goals-against average (2.15) and save percentage (.925).

Don't expect the Senators to let another promising young goalie slip away anytime soon.

If Anderson's recovery from injury does not progress quickly, Lehner's role would continue to expand, giving the Senators an opportunity to see if he has the making of a future No. 1 goaltender. This alone makes him a must-own goalie in deep keeper leagues.

In standard leagues that take wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts into account, Lehner should be added by all Anderson owners who have roster room.

At the very least, Lehner could be a valuable stopgap over the next week-and-a-half, with the Senators set to play five games in that span. With Anderson's status up in the air, Lehner could be called upon more often on a short-term basis.


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