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Mike Harrington: Lehner understands the chatter but keeps blocking it out

Robin Lehner knows what Tyrod Taylor has been going through.

The quarterback in the NFL probably gets much of the blame for losses and too much of the credit for victories. You can make the same analogy about NHL goalies.

"One hundred percent," Lehner told The Buffalo News Tuesday in KeyBank Center. "I've been following the Bills and a lot of people have been on him. Now they're not and that's just how it works. In hockey, all over the league and especially in the last 4-5 years, when things don't go well for a team it's become two positions people look at: That's goalies and coaches."

"At the end of the day, I'm fine with it. I truly am. I try not to listen. I've been in the league for a while. I know when I play bad and I know when I play good."

Lehner has been much like his team during its 3-7-2 start. There have been lots of good flashes and some tough moments as well. He's 2-4-1 with a 2.78 goals-against average and .911 save percentage — but those numbers are 1.54 and .953 in the last two games.

In 88 games with the Sabres since he arrived at the start of 2015-16, Lehner has a .920 save percentage that's not far from an NHL who's-who of masked men. Among goalies who have played at least 70 games, the leader in that span is Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky at .924. Washington's Braden Holtby is at .923, Anaheim's John Gibson and Chicago's Corey Crawford are at .922. Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick and Pittsburgh's Matt Murray are at .921.

Those are the elite of the NHL. Crawford, Quick and Murray have two Stanley Cups apiece. It's interesting to note Lehner's GAA in that span is exactly the same as New York Rangers stalwart Henrik Lundqvist and he has a better save percentage (.920 to .914). But Lundqvist is 68-45-13 while Lehner is just 30-39-14.

It's when the game is up for grabs (and, of course, in shootouts) where Lehner has tended to slip behind.

"This is a business of performing and I know that," Lehner said. "I'm just trying to take day by day and bring my best to the rink every day. Whatever happens happens. Everyone is on Carey Price in Montreal and to me, he's the best goalie in the world. He is. People try to blame him looking at numbers. Stats this and stats that.

"His team stats are what matter. Obviously he wants to play better. We all would in that situation but they're not playing good as a team."

Sabres Notebook: Housley wants team to push, not break

For a franchise that has had a run of fan favorites in goal, Lehner has never tickled the fancy of the paying customers here. Many remain sore that former General Manager Tim Murray traded a first-round pick in 2015 to get Lehner from Ottawa.

"It's not something I care about really. I don't think about a first-round pick," Lehner said. "Since I got here, we haven't been winning. I don't need credit or praise. I've been around that 92 percent mark, one of the top in the league, since I got here. If that's not worth a first-rounder, that's for other people to judge.

Lehner knows he has to keep making a lot of saves. He's in a contract year, having earned only a one-year deal from new GM Jason Botterill over the summer.

"I know if I go win 4-5 games in a row and the team wins 4-5 games in a row, everything is fine again," he said. "You have to believe that your stats will even out to the way you play. If it doesn't, we'll all sit down after the season. Management and coaches will sit down and look at me and ask themselves if they can find a goalie that can do a better job than me.

"If they do, they'll bring him in. This is a team game. I love this team. If they find anyone out there they feel can do it better than me, they should go for it.  I truly believe we have a good team in here but we're not playing 60-minute games and doing all the right things. We're working on it."

Lehner has had a whirlwind last few days. His wife, Donya, gave birth to their second child Friday morning and then he headed to practice. Daughter Zoe weighed in at 7 pounds, 7 ounces. His son, Lennox, turned 3 on Monday.

"It's pretty crazy," he said. "It was a very long night but it came out very well with obviously a lot of emotions. But then you get out of the hospital and make it to practice and get ready for a game against San Jose on Saturday. Then it's my son's birthday, and now Halloween. It's been a helluva weekend. I was up late Monday carving pumpkins. It's been a family weekend."

Housley: 'I see a team that at key times in the game, we sort of break'

Lehner has added daddy duties these days but that hasn't stopped him from rehashing Saturday's 3-2 loss to San Jose as he looks to the Sabres' road trip this week that opens Thursday in Arizona. Lehner made 15 saves in the second period but gave up the tying goal with 11.6 seconds left. Then he got burned for Logan Couture's game-winner with 3:52 to go in the third.

"I looked at that goal probably 30 times and I'm playing that exactly the same way next time," he said. "I know he's coming, I know he's a good shooter who is also a good passer with a back-door option. I've got to play both.

"If you look at my positioning during the goal, he has almost nothing. I'm leaning into it. If he passes it over, I'm going to make it there. I'm also taking away 97 percent of the net ... It was a helluva shot, a helluva shot with a back-door option."

Fans don't want to hear about patience but Lehner said that's exactly what the Sabres need to get more momentum swings during games.

"All the details have to be there," he said. "People might say it would be a boring game but I think you have to know how to play chess a little bit, know when the other team is going to make mistakes. We're working to get there. People want to put any of it off on me, that's fine. I understand."

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