The recognition for Islanders goalie Robin Lehner keeps coming. On Saturday he was named as one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy awarded to the top goaltender in the NHL. It comes a day after he was named as a finalist for the Masterton Trophy, given to the player who best exemplifies perseverance and dedication
“I’m honored, obviously,’’ Lehner said after the Islanders’ practice. “It’s something I didn’t believe (could happen) going into the season — I believed it going into the season, but a year ago, I didn’t. I said yesterday, there are so many people that deserve credit — all my teammates and the organization — but a lot of credit goes to Mitch (Korn, the Islanders’ director of goaltending) and Piero (Greco, the team’s goaltending coach) for helping me adjust some things in my game. And now it’s been a lot of hard work. It’s a lot of hard work and it’s truly an honor.’’
Lehner signed a one-year, $1.5 million free agent contract with the Islanders last summer. On the day training camp started, the 6-4, 240-pound Swede told the media of his battle last season with alcohol dependence, depression and bipolar disorder. Because of that situation, which he has painted as a dark place, he is the favorite to win the Masterton Trophy.
This season Lehner finished in the top five in the league in save percentage (.930, second), goals against average (2.13, third) and shutouts (six, tied with Andrei Vasilevskiy for fourth) and had a record of 25-13-5.
He wasn't the Islanders’ clear-cut No. 1 goalie at the start of the season, but rather split time with Thomas Greiss, with whom he shared the Jennings Trophy awarded to the goaltenders who allowed the fewest goals against in the regular season (196). Among those Lehner credited for helping him succeed was Greiss, who had a record of 23-14-2, with five shutouts, a 2.28 GAA and .927 save percentage.
“I said yesterday — it’s been good, we’ve been pushing each other,’’ Lehner said of Greiss. “He’s played incredibly good this year, too, and you know you’ve got to go in there and perform to keep the net, or to get playing time. That’s how it’s been all year.’’
Lehner is joined as a finalist by the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Vasilevskiy and the Dallas Stars’ Ben Bishop.
Vasilevskiy, a 24-year-old Russian, led the league in wins (39-10-4), and had a GAA of 2.40, a save percentage of .925, and six shutouts. Tampa Bay won the President’s Trophy for the league’s best regular season record and tied a league record with 62 regular season wins.
Bishop, 32, led the league in save percentage (.934) on his way to a 27-15-2 record, with seven shutouts (third-most in the league) and a 1.98 GAA, which was the second-lowest in the league.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz praised his goalies for their performance over the course of the season.
“Good on him,’’ Trotz said of Lehner. “He’s had a great year, and quite frankly, you can nominate both our goalies. Their numbers were very similar — we don’t have the success without ‘Greisser,’ too. But it’s good on Robin. You just want people to reach their potential. By him getting his life in order … and then you have the success, outstanding.’’
Asked what the award meant to him, Lehner spoke of all the work he’s put in since his youth hockey days. But he is focused on the Islanders’ playoff run, which is in a holding pattern after the team’s sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round.
Asked what it would mean if he were to win the award, Lehner said, “It’d be really nice if we win the Cup first.
“These recognitions are nice,’’ he said. “It gives me a chance to keep building on a platform that I started, with a lot of these issues that I want to work with and shed light on and help change the perception of everything. Because I think it’s a long, long way to go.’’
Notes & quotes: The Islanders are off on Sunday and return to practice Monday. D Scott Mayfield and F Cal Clutterbuck did not practice but Trotz said they were bothered by "irritant-type of things,'' and Mayfield may be back at practice Monday.