The Vegas Golden Knights enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs with arguably one of the best goalie tandems in the league. There is a mixture of veteran experience, success, and a hunger to get or to keep the starting job. Marc-Andre Fleury has seemed to always be the true starter in Vegas, but the trade deadline acquisition of Robin Lehner means the Golden Knights have more freedom on choosing who will protect the pipes.
Fleury has been with the Golden Knights since the expansion draft, and he was arguably the biggest name selected for the franchise. Leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins after 12 seasons, a flame seemed to reignite within the three-time Stanley Cup winner. Ultimately, he helped lead the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season in the league and has allowed them to be the new powerhouse in the Pacific.
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Since moving to the team, Fleury has been to two All-Star Games and seems to have fully embraced Vegas. His love for the city was shown when he pledged $100,000 to T-Mobile Arena workers when the league paused due to COVID-19.
During the 2019-20 season, Fleury was up to his usual level of play. The Flower recorded 27 of the Golden Knights’ 39 wins as well as posting a 2.77 goals against average (GAA) and a .905 save percentage (SV%). Fleury also had five shutouts this season.
With his veteran status, Fleury is seen as a leader in the locker room. Max Pacioretty, a former captain himself, told Gary Lawless, “He is the greatest leader I have ever been around.”
With his leadership and exceptional level of play, it is easy to understand how Fleury was able to help create the winning culture in Las Vegas. The players clearly respect him and he seems to bring out the best in his teammates.
Robin Lehner made his way to the Golden Knights when he was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline. In his time with the Blackhawks, he went 16-10-5 with a .918 SV% and a 3.01 GAA. During the 2018-19 season, he started 43 games for the Islanders and recorded 25 wins, 6 shutouts, a 2.13 GAA and a .930 SV%. In his lone season with the Islanders, Lehner won the Bill Masterton Trophy, shared the William M. Jennings Trophy with Thomas Greiss, and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
Since becoming a Golden Knight, Lehner has played more like his time with the Islanders. In his short time with the Golden Knights, the Panda had three wins, one shutout, and a .940 SV%.
Lehner said that he was shocked and excited when he heard that he was headed to the desert. The possibility of winning the Cup seemed to excite the 28-year-old goalie. Lehner, seemingly much more aware of his role, knew that Fleury would be first in the pecking order.
This season, the playoffs will have a completely different format that will seemingly favor teams that have a strong goaltending duo. With Vegas being in the round-robin stage, having two strong goalies will help keep both guys fresh by the time the first round rolls around. So far, head coach Peter DeBoer has split time between his two net-minders. DeBoer had Fleury play the entire exhibition game, while Lehner had the reigns against the Stars for the first round-robin game. This has worked out for Vegas as they have won both games.
Looking at the teams in the 24-team tournament, Vegas is the only one that has a goalie 1-A and 1-B setup. Fleury and Lehner are both high-level goalies and the Golden Knights will look to use both throughout the playoffs. DeBoer said, “My plan here is both guys are going to play through the round-robin. I think coming off a four-month pause in order to make sure that we get everybody up to speed and are fair and have all the information at our disposal when we start the playoffs that’s the right thing to do.”
The Golden Knights have a combined 153 playoff games played between Fleury and Lehner. However, Fleury has 142 of those games. Lehner, in his playoff career, is 5-5-0 in 11 games. Although he has played in significantly fewer games than his counterpart, Lehner has a 2.15 GAA with a .930 SV%. Fleury, on the other hand, has three Stanley Cups and has been to the Final five times in his career. This level of experience can allow him to mentor Lehner and show him how to handle the pressures that come with being in the playoffs.
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Vegas is not shying away from promoting their strong duo of Fleury and Lehner. DeBoer had mentioned that the Golden Knights will need both goalies in order to accomplish their goal this year. Also, the Golden Knights’ Twitter account has been having fun with their goalie tandem, tweeting a Twitter poll of who the best goalie duo in the league is.
The Golden Knights’ goalie depth is one of their strongest assets, with or without the bubble. It is a luxury for them to be in the round-robin stage. They can play both of their goalies and not have to worry about whether or not they will actually make the playoffs. This allows the Golden Knights to get all of their players back up to speed. By allowing both net-minders to get playing time, they will both be ready when it comes to the time to compete for the Cup.