The good goalie questions continue

Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray couldn’t help but muse about his bitter-sweet goaltending issue as the watched the team practice Saturday before leaving for Sunday’s game against the Florida Panthers.

With Craig Anderson sidelined indefinitely due to his stitched-up finger, Robin Lehner has been spectacular as an emergency substitute. Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks could easily have been a blowout defeat without Lehner keeping the Senators alive.

Lehner acknowledged that the hype surrounding him has been over the top, but he has certainly looked like a quality NHL netminder while starting the past three Senators games and has deserved his share of accolades.

Murray’s dilemma is that he’s also anxious to recall Ben Bishop, giving him a shot at the NHL level. Since joining Binghamton of the AHL, following last Sunday’s trade from the St. Louis Blues, Bishop has also been superb, posting 41 shots in consecutive victories, including Friday’s 5-2 win over the Syracuse Crunch.

In the process, he has earned his share of rave reviews.

“He’s the real deal,” Binghamton coach Kurt Kleinendorst told the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin. “There’s just something that goes with a goaltender like Ben that just makes your team better. They feel secure. I think they know they can make a mistake and he’s forgiving. I don’t say that direspectfully to Mike (McKenna) or Robin (Lehner). There’s just something about having a goalie like Ben back there that brings out the best in your group.”

The goaltending saga doesn’t end there. Before leaving on the Senators charter flight to Florida, coach Paul MacLean was still undecided on whether to start Lehner or Alex Auld against the Panthers. Auld, who has served as a back-up to Anderson all season, hasn’t played since losing 5-3 to the Boston Bruins on Feb. 25.

“(Lehner) has certainly played well enough to continue, but we’re going to evaluate on the plane and make a decision (Sunday),” said MacLean, acknowledging some concern about overworking Lehner. “We’ll factor in how Florida’s playing and who’s playing for them and all that, going through the same routines that we do every game before making that decision.”

One thing’s for sure. Florida hasn’t played well against the Senators for a long, long time. The Senators are in position to extend their winning streak against the Panthers to a perfect 10 games Sunday. While the Panthers were leading the weak Southeast Division heading into Saturday’s game against the Nashville Predators, they also went into the game fresh from a 7-0 spanking at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets.

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who has scored three goals and four assists in three games against Florida this season, isn’t getting carried away with the streak.

“There’s nothing to it, it’s just one of those things,” he said. “They’ve struggled for a few years, but this year is different. The last time we played them (a 6-2 win on Feb. 15), Anderson played great and kept us in it early and we made the most of our opportunities.”

Besides, Alfredsson says, the Senators are in no position to take any team lightly, considering that the Blackhawks dominated them for two periods Friday. Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane dazzled.

“We were hesitant,” said Alfredsson. “We were still in it because Robin was playing great, but we got caught watching, no question.”

Alfredsson will get no argument from MacLean, who didn’t like the looks of the game after seeing it over and over again on video.

“After watching it again, it probably got worse,” he said. “Chicago is a real good team and every once in awhile, we get schooled on how we would like to play and last night was another one of those nights and Boston has also done it to us a couple of times. (Friday) night tells us we still have a ways to go.”

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