Given all he’s overcome in the last year and how he’s performed since October, it’s no surprise that Robin Lehner, the New York Islanders nominee for the Masterton Trophy, has been named a finalist for this NHL award. But now that it’s reached this stage — and we’re in a delightful pause between series — it’s worth revisiting why he’s a candidate for the honor.
As a reminder, the Bill Masterton Memorial goes “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
Here’s how the NHL’s release on the finalists described Lehner’s nomination:
Lehner (25-13-5, 2.13 GAA, .930 SV%, 6 SO) and teammate Thomas Greiss won the 2018-19 William M. Jennings Trophy as the goaltenders on the team allowing the fewest regular-season goals, helping the Islanders post their highest regular-season points total (103) since 1983-84. His best NHL season on the ice came on the heels of revealing addiction and mental health issues in a self-penned article for The Athletic during training camp. “I am not sharing this story to make people think differently of Robin Lehner as a professional goalie. I want to help make a difference and help others the way I have been helped,” Lehner wrote. “I want people to know that there is hope in desperation, there is healing in facing an ugly past and there is no shame in involving others in your battle.”
Today as the Islanders resumed practice, Lehner talked about how his journey wouldn’t be possible without the support around him that extends from family and current teammates to management of the Islanders and his previous teams:
“It’s a huge honor, obviously,” Lehner said. “It wouldn’t be possible without all of the pieces around me, starting from my family and friends, going throughout this whole team, the relationships me and [Thomas Greiss] have had all year, pushing each other, supporting each other. Everyone from Lou down on up the whole organization has been great.”
”It’s a collective thing and obviously a huge honor,” Lehner said.
He’s not just “saying the right thing” about teammates, either. We got a window into that from his thoughts on the injury to Johnny Boychuk, who the Islanders announced will be out for 3-4 weeks:
Lehner on 55: "Johnny's a very close friend to me, he's been very key for me this year both on and off the ice. When he's out there, he does all the little things that you guys don't really report on. Me as a goalie, I see a lot of it." #Isles— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) April 19, 2019
Lehner is a pending unrestricted free agent this summer, so there’s no telling what lies ahead professionally. But news of this finalist honor comes at a nice time — a pause in the playoffs where he has continued his outstanding performance from the regular season.
The actual Masterton award recipient will be announced June 19 in Vegas, after the playoffs are over and the story on this season will be closed. The stories of the other two finalists — Nick Foligno and Joe Thornton, who are also in the middle of the playoffs — are also worth reading if you haven’t already.
We may be biased here, but there are good reasons Lehner’s story touches many of us most of all. As Dan wrote back in September:
The scars that Lehner reveals exceed hockey or team allegiances.
I’m glad he’s feeling happier and healthier than he has in years. Thank you for sharing, Robin, and good luck.
Indeed. On and off the ice.