Robin Lehner will be the Golden Knights’ starting goaltender Tuesday.
Coach Pete DeBoer said Lehner earned the right to play against his former team when the Knights’ first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks begins at 7:30 p.m. Lehner played 33 games for Chicago before coming to Las Vegas at the trade deadline.
Marc-Andre Fleury will start on the bench for a Knights’ playoff series for the first time.
“Obviously, a tough decision when you have two quality starting goaltenders,” DeBoer said. “I think the best way I can explain how I came to the decision is it wasn’t what (Fleury) didn’t do. (Fleury) was great. It’s what Robin has done since he got here.”
Lehner is 5-0-0 with the Knights, including two round-robin victories that helped the team secure the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The 29-year-old is 6-5 in the playoffs over his career with a .928 save percentage and 2.22 goals-against average.
Overall, Lehner has been one of the best goalies in the NHL the past two years. The pending unrestricted free agent ranks third in goals saved above average in that time, behind Dallas’ Ben Bishop and Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper.
Lehner finished third in the Vezina Trophy voting last year.
“I thought he came into camp after the pause and was lights out in all the scrimmages,” DeBoer said. “He’s picked up right where he left off in the games. This isn’t a case of one guy not getting the job done. This is just one guy that I think, from the time he got here, has been fantastic.”
Fleury had started every postseason game in Knights history. The three-time Stanley Cup winner is 79-62 in the playoffs with a .911 save percentage and 2.60 goals-against average. He allowed four goals on 17 shots in his lone round-robin start against the St. Louis Blues. The Knights beat the Blues 6-4.
DeBoer repeatedly has said he thinks the team will use both goaltenders in the playoffs.
“Marc-Andre’s the ultimate pro,” DeBoer said. “I think every NHL player has a lot of pride and wants to play every night. But there’s no one more professional in his relationships within the team or how he handles things or how he is in the community than (Fleury). That’s the ultimate compliment you can pay a professional athlete.”