The Vegas Golden Knights find themselves heading into Game 7 against the Minnesota Wild on Friday, May 28. The series has been defined by exceptional goaltending on both sides and a lack of consistent offense from the Golden Knights. However, one of the shining stars for Vegas has been Marc-Andre Fleury.
Over the course of the series, Fleury has been a dominant factor. He has done his best job to keep Vegas in each game they have played. This is highlighted by the fact that although the Golden Knights have outshot the Wild in nearly every game, they have not been able to find the back of the net consistently.
In the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Fleury has continued to silence the doubters from the beginning of the season. Continuing his Vezina-level play, he has produced a save percentage of .935% and a goals-against average of 1.66. He recorded a shutout in Game 4. Both of these numbers are exceeding what he did during the 2020-21 regular season.
Fleury also has a long track record of playoff success dating back to his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he won three Stanley Cups. For his playoff career, he has a record of 84-64 with 16 shutouts. In this stretch, he has a GAA of 2.54 and a SV% of .912. Looking at these numbers, it is quite clear that Fleury is playing above his usual level of postseason play. This should be a huge factor for head coach Pete DeBoer when deciding who should take the net for Game 7.
What About the Split?
Despite being on the losing end of two of the last three games, Fleury has not been at fault for these games. Much like during the regular season, he does not seem to get nearly as much goal support over his goalie partner, Robin Lehner. This recurring theme has seen Fleury have to work much harder to ensure that his team will come out on top.
Although Lehner could be a viable option for Game 7, he has not played a game since May 10. This extended break is not like anything the goalies have seen this year. As most of the time, Fleury and Lehner traded the net. It seems quite clear that with his recent string of consecutive starts, Fleury seems to be penciled in as the No. 1 goalie, for this round at least. Also, even though he has had a higher workload, this is nothing new for the 36-year-old. During the regular season, he started nearly every game while Lehner was sidelined with a concussion.
Learning From Mistakes
The reason on whether or not Fleury should be in net for Game 7 could be a lingering effect from the 2020 playoff bubble. During this time, it seemed as if DeBoer did not know how to utilize his elite tandem. This was highlighted with random spot appearances from Fleury when Vegas was in control of the season. It seems that DeBoer may have learned from his mismanagement of his goalies over the last year.
It seems that DeBoer might be using his newfound knowledge to make a more informed decision on deciding who will be in the net going forward. After all, the goalie split was only supposed to be a temporary tactic at the beginning of the season. Once the season ended, it could have been decided to let Fleury finish his elite season as the No. 1 and continue his revenge tour.
Ultimately, the decision is up to the Golden Knights coaching staff, but the argument is there to let Fleury continue to be the starter. He has the experience, stats and consistent ice time to give Vegas the best shot to win Game 7 at home. Lehner’s playing time will come if the Golden Knights can advance, but for the time being, Fleury should be the one to finish the series.