Heading into the 2021-22 season, Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner was well established and considered by many to be a top-10 goaltender in the league. However, that wasn’t always the case.
After the 2017-18 season, Lehner’s career was at somewhat of a crossroads after a down year with the Buffalo Sabres. That summer, he opened up about going to rehab to treat an alcohol and drug addiction, while also acknowledging that he was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder with manic phases.
He ended up signing a one-year deal with the New York Islanders, one that paid off tremendously for his career. Lehner was fantastic in his one and only season on Long Island, posting a 2.13 goals against average along with a .930 save percentage. He was so good, in fact, that he ended up being named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
On Sunday night, he returned to Long Island for the first time since being a member of the team, and was given a very warm reception from the crowd, one which he very much appreciated.
“It’s so much more than hockey to me, I can’t explain it,” Lehner said. “It’s the love I have for the guys there, this team, the organization, the fans, what they helped me do with my life.”
Lehner, who has won his last four starts, was able to lead the Golden Knights to a 4-3 shootout victory over his former team. He was rock solid in the contest, stopping 29 of 32 shots fired his way. Despite this, the only thing he was interested in was talking about how much love he has for the Islanders organization, and in particular, its fans.
“The first exhibition game that I played here right after I released my story, I got a standing ovation that I never had before on any team,” Lehner said. “They’ve shown me love since day one. People think I’m making a big deal out of it, yeah, I am. It’s my life. I can’t express it.”
“For the guys, the organization, (Islanders general manager) Lou (Lamoriello), (head coach Barry) Trotz, everyone. (Goalie coach) Piero (Greco), especially. They helped me turn it around. I can’t explain it.”
This had to feel especially good for Lehner given the fact his relationship with Golden Knights fans has been rocky at best. It is no secret that the fan base had major love for Marc-Andre Fleury, and many saw Lehner as his replacement, which they didn’t care for. Just recently, the crowd mock-cheered Lehner in a game when he was pulled in favor of Laurent Brossoit.
The good news is that Lehner does appear to be turning things around as of late, something that will go a long way towards getting the home crowd on his side.
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