Former Sabres O'Reilly and Lehner are both thriving

Both players are up for NHL Awards on Wednesday night

Paul Hamilton
June 18, 2019 - 9:07 pm

Photo: Paul Hamilton (@pham1717)

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Las Vegas, NV (WGR 550) - Former Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly and goalie Robin Lehner are in Vegas as finalists for NHL Awards. Lehner was lights out in his first season with the Islanders after the Sabres didn’t qualify him, while O’Reilly is nominated for the Selke Trophy after being traded to St. Louis. O’Reilly never even made the playoffs as a member of the Sabres and he said, “It’s amazing that I was able to do this, but everything adds up. Every year of learning how to grow in so many aspects and finding out how to win, I still can’t believe it happened, it’s been a long road.”

From last July when he was traded to this June when he won the Stanley Cup, O’Reilly went from the lowest of the lows to the highest of the highs. I asked him about it, but he didn’t want to take it back to the Sabres, “It was a rollercoaster for sure. With the struggles that we had it was very disappointing. We were all on edge, we didn’t know if the group was going to get split up and then these little adjustments happen, 'Binner' comes in and Chief takes over and helps us find an identity.

“I still can’t believe it that this all came together and we were able to change like we did.”

Many fans in Buffalo were pulling for O’Reilly and have been openly wondering why he still isn’t a Sabre. He said he appreciates that the fans have stuck with him, “I think the support there was always great. There’s a lot of people that have always been happy for me and want the best for me and that’s something great and it’s a heck of a hockey town as well.”

The Blues had their first Stanley Cup parade through downtown St. Louis. O’Reilly couldn’t believe the experience, “That was shocking, we come out of the arena and it was fairly busy, but then we turned the corner and it’s a little more nuts and then you turn the next corner and there’s more people and louder and it just kept evolving to where we couldn’t believe it.”

Lehner enjoyed watching O’Reilly win the Cup. He said, “I had chills, I watched that game and I couldn’t be happier for him. I played with him in Buffalo and he’s one on the best teammates I’ve ever played with.

“I think he set a great example and he was just a quality person and I don’t think anyone can say anything else about him.”

Lehner went from checking himself into rehab to save his life to leading the NHL in goaltending and a candidate for the Vezina Trophy.

He doesn't have a contract with the Islanders, but he said it's the only team he want to play for, “I just hope something works out. I don’t care if its short term or long term, I just want to be part of this team and at the end of the day, I’ve proven for one year that I’m sober and the reality is that maybe that’s not that long and obviously there’s still a risk and reward and its business.

“Maybe me coming out wasn’t the best business decision I’ve made, but I’ll do it again, I have no problem with it, I’m going to accept what I’ve done and I do it for the right reasons and I’m going to keep speaking on behalf of mental health and addiction.”

Former Sabres goalie coach Mitch Korn helped Lehner in Long Island, but he credits Piero Greco with a lot of his success too, “It’s been amazing, on the ice, off the ice just two quality goaltending coaches, two of the best that I’ve had and we changed a few things, but just working with each other and practicing hard every day, it’s been a good partnership.”

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