Fan-favorite Marc-André Fleury was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks this past summer in a move that left several Vegas Golden Knights fans confused and angry. I’m not going to lie, I was also one of those fans. Fleury had just had one of the best seasons of his career, won his first Vezina Trophy, and had cemented himself even further into Golden Knights lore. Alas, the NHL is a business, and it was his $7 million cap hit that would be the detractor that would ship him out of Sin City.
Fret not though, as the Golden Knights are in the laps of luxury, as they have another starting goalie in the mix, and his name is Robin Lehner. You remember him, right? The man they acquired at the trade deadline in 2020, who was supposed to take over the leading-man role from Fleury. Well, now that Fleury is gone, it’s finally time for Lehner to show us what he’s made of.
A lot of flack has been given to Lehner ever since he arrived in Vegas. From post-season performance criticisms to being riddled with injuries, it seems the native of Sweden can’t catch a break. That is until this season. With him now being the number one man in Vegas, he has all the tools to have a breakout season. In this article, we will be looking at the three reasons why he is slated for his best season to date. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in.
#1 – All-Star Defense
I mean, this one is pretty straightforward. You have all-star Alex Pietrangelo, certified star Shea Theodore, two-time Stanley Cup victor and defensive anchor Alec Martinez, giant Nic Hague, sound Zach Whitecloud, and the surprising Brayden McNabb lining up in front of you.
A good defense will always make a goalie’s life easier, and that is exactly what will happen this year in Vegas. Lehner is a great goalie, don’t get me wrong, but the d-core playing in front of him is also going to give him a big hand. How do I know?
Last year, the Golden Knights’ defense was in the top-five of all the defensive categories, even leading the Goals-Against-Per-Game category (only allowed 2.18 goals per game). With those numbers, there is no shortage of what Lehner could accomplish next season.
#2 – Lehner’s Fresh Start
With no pressure coming from “maybe” being the backup, the 30-year-old can finally gear all his attention towards dominating the net for the Golden Knights every single night. He is finally the leading man of his team, a role he hasn’t been used to since his Vezina-finalist season (even then, the crease time was split).
In that season, Lehner put up a 25-13-5 record, to go along with a 2.13 goals-against average and a.930 save percentage. He also was able to record an outstanding six shutouts. His role has been in limbo since the first day he got to Vegas, so hopefully, the clarity will lend to him having his best season yet.
#3 – Learned From Fleury
It doesn’t hurt to be watching a future Hall of Famer go out and put on a show every night. That is exactly what happened with Lehner last season. During the games he was on the bench he was able to study Fleury, who is no doubt a future Hall of Fame inductee.
Lehner had spent roughly a year and a half with Fleury, so naturally, some things must have rubbed off on him. The two seemed to have a great relationship while playing for Vegas, which could lend to Lehner having picked up a thing or two from the Sorel, Quebec native.
Although I was sad to see Fleury go, I am happy Lehner is now carrying the torch and becoming the team’s leading man heading into next season. Hopefully, he builds on the momentum Fleury had built last season.
Time to Shine
Lehner is not getting any younger, and father time usually wins the battle against us (unless your name is Tom Brady). It is time for the Swede to show what he’s made of, and prove to Vegas management that they made the right move of trading for him way back in 2020, and signing him to that lucrative deal that very offseason. Only time will tell if he does, but I am positive he has what it takes to lead his club to the promised land.
What do you think? Will Lehner have his best season ever this year? Let me know in the comments below!
Michael Vidakis is a Montreal native who writes for the Vegas Golden Knights team here at The Hockey Writers. In his spare time, he enjoys the finer things in life such as Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, staring aimlessly outside windows and tangerines.