Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer said Saturday he hadn’t decided on his starting goaltender for the team’s first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
But Robin Lehner has built quite a case to get the start against his former team when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin.
Lehner was outstanding in the Knights’ final round-robin game Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche in Edmonton, Alberta. He stopped 32 of 35 shots, allowed only one five-on-five goal and made several spectacular saves to help his team earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Now, DeBoer must decide whether Lehner or Marc-Andre Fleury will start Game 1 against the Blackhawks. The coach said Saturday he hadn’t “even thought” about it, and Lehner played it cool.
“Every game I get to play, I’ll do my best and whenever they need me, they need me,” Lehner said. “Marc is a world-class goaltender, and he’s been one of the best in the league for a very long time.”
— Robin Lehner (@RobinLehner) August 8, 2020
Lehner, 29, has been excellent since the Knights acquired him at the trade deadline, going 5-0-0, including the round robin.
His fifth win was one of his most impressive. Playing against the Western Conference’s highest-scoring team, Lehner was calm, composed and made difficult saves look routine.
His most spectacular stop came late in the first period when the Avalanche had a five-on-three power play. Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen fired an unchecked one-timer to Lehner’s left, and the goalie stretched his glove out to snag the puck.
— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 8, 2020
“I thought we played that five-on-three fairly well,” Lehner said. “I saw most of the pucks and (got a) lot of good blocks. Colorado is a very good team. They’re going to get their chances, and they made a good play. I was fortunate to get over there.”
Lehner finished the round robin with a .903 save percentage in two games, making his career mark in the playoffs .928. Fleury has a .917 save percentage in the postseason and a much longer track record. He’s won three Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and led the Knights to the Final in their inaugural season.
But this season hasn’t been Fleury’s best. The 35-year-old’s .905 save percentage and 2.77 goals-against average were worse than his career averages. He also allowed four goals on 17 shots in his one start of the round robin.
— Golden Edge (@GoldenEdgeRJ) August 8, 2020
DeBoer didn’t let on whether that means Lehner has won the job. The coach has stressed repeatedly since the restart that he thinks both goaltenders probably will play during the postseason.
Still, when it comes to who goes first, Lehner got in a pretty strong last word.
“We have two world-class goalies,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “Two very different styles, but we’re confident with (Lehner) back there. He’s solid, and he makes a lot of big saves for us.”
Format gets coach’s OK
DeBoer said he liked the round-robin format the NHL used to keep the top four teams in each conference occupied while everyone else played best-of-five series.
He said along with giving the Knights a chance to earn the No. 1 seed, the three games got them ready for the first round.
“I don’t see any cons,” DeBoer said. “My concern coming in was (whether) we would play intense games that would prepare us for the first round. I think the format has made these games intense. That was a playoff game out there today.”
Robin Lehner’s postseason stats
Save percentage: .928
Goals-against average: 2.22
Marc-Andre Fleury’s postseason stats
Save percentage: .917
Goals-against average: 2.51