And that’s not from the team starting a rookie save.
No, it’s Vegas that now faces the very difficult decision of which of its two veterans to put on Friday night. Robin Lehner has been the No.1 in the playoffs so far, but has been mixed in that streak, with two shutouts but a 3.00 GAA and less than 0.900 save percentage in the other three games he has had. he started.
Fleury, meanwhile, has been the face of the Vegas franchise since day one and his Agent created waves with controversial social media post just before the start of this series, which featured a sword in the back of the goalkeeper.
Some may call it the “impossible” decision.
So who should Vegas go with in Game 7 on Friday?
The case of Robin Lehner …
As Luongo noted in his tweet, if Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer didn’t walk away from Lehner in Game 6, it would be difficult to do so now. He’s been solid for the Knights for most of this playoff series and already has two shutouts in this series, so taking another route for Game 7 would open all kinds of questions if Vancouver were to come out on top.
It is true that Lehner has been the second-best goalkeeper on the ice in the last two games as Thatcher Demko shone on the other end, but it is also not fair to blame him for the consecutive losses. In Game 6, Lehner was thrown (by his own teammates) on second and third and evidently had no goal support in the shutout loss.
In fact, the Golden Knights have only scored one goal on Demko in the last two games, putting their goalie in an impossible position. The real questions are up front. Yes, the Golden Knights have a big advantage in shots and scoring chances, but they weren’t able to finish on the 24-year-old playoff rookie on the other end. It doesn’t matter which goalie Vegas chooses to pick in Game 7 if the offense doesn’t include it.
The other reason to stay with Lehner here is that while Fleury has name value, it hasn’t been a tandem situation so far. He’s Lehner’s crease and he’s No.1. The only games Fleury started in this postseason was a round robin game against St. Louis, the first half of a back-to-back against Chicago as Vegas already had a 2-0 lead in the series, and the back half of a back-to-back against Vancouver in Game 4 of this series.
If either of the last two losses had really been on Lehner, then perhaps there would be a more solid reason to give Fleury the reins in the deciding game. Lehner has the top numbers and can’t be the focal point when assessing why there’s a Game 7 – so turning away from him now would be the riskiest move.
This is true even if it is a consecutive situation. Usually you try to avoid playing the same goalie on consecutive days and Vegas has followed that plan this postseason, although you can’t make a decision for Game 7 on that basis alone. And understand this: While Lehner hasn’t started two consecutive nights at all this season, he did so twice in 2018-19 – and in both cases, the second starts were shutouts.
Lehner did nothing to to lose his net, while Fleury has only played two games in 28 days and after winning in Game 4 of this series, he admitted that he needed a little time to regain his legs.
“I felt these two weeks [between starts] early in the game, ”Fleury said. “I think I was nervous moving a bit too much, but in the second (period) I had a few more hits and started to feel better and by the third I thought I was back to normal, and my teammates did a really good job in the third, so they made my job easier too.
As a must-see Game 7 approaches, you don’t want a goalie who needs to find himself – and since Vegas controls the number of shots, you also don’t want a goalie who needs to see a lot of rubber feel comfortable. Again, risky.
The most important thing you can ask of a goalie during the playoffs is consistency and Lehner has been a relatively stable hand. Choosing Fleury over Lehner now would add a risk factor that is just not necessary.
The case of Marc-André Fleury …
When you try to make a case for Fleury, most of the time it will be for historical reasons, or for a ‘bullet in the arm’ feeling.
Fleury has won three Stanley Cups and he was the Vegas starter when they made it to the Cup Final in their inaugural season. He was amazing in this race too, until they met Washington and the bottom fell apart. He’s fifth on the NHL’s all-time playoff winning list. He’s a future Hall of Fame with a proven track record in big games and that’s nothing to ignore.
He’s also had the Vancouver number for some time – it’s been 14 years since Fleury lost regulation to the Canucks. But how much can it really factor in a game 7 decision?
And while Fleury’s overall return-to-play numbers weren’t very bright, if you count just the two starts he’s made in a playoff game, he’s actually showing better than Lehner. Fleury led Vegas to a 2-1 win over Chicago and a 5-3 win over Vancouver, posting a .931 save percentage in those games. It’s a very small sample size and he’s arguably the cooler of the two goalies, but it’s not like he’s a problem when given the crease.
Don’t let a bad start against Saint-Louis – his first in five months – muddle his case to start Game 7.
Another factor in this decision is the optics of the thing. If Vegas had lost Game 7 with Lehner, they would have been eliminated following three straight losses in which they never used the team’s face. Fleury is not only loved, but he was Vegas No.1 for the vast majority of this season, when they were one of the best teams in the Western Conference. And he was in net for their last victory in this series.
Not giving him a chance in a big place would be hard to remember defeat.