Robin Lehner has been through enough in his career that little irritations are inconsequential. Injuries and a concussion this season predominantly handed the net to Marc-Andre Fleury by default and the Vegas flower bloomed. But after a Game 3 gaffe, head coach Pete DeBoer turned to Lehner, his other No. 1 goalie who was brilliant in the Vegas Golden Knights 2-1 OT win over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 on Sunday night at the Bell Centre.
Fleury is perennially a fan favorite, wherever he plays. Lehner is an intense person, to the point of surly in a hockey sweater.
Lehner took special motivation from the Twitter firestorm on Sunday afternoon as media and his home fans put down the decision and Lehner, too.
“Not many people know that I come to the game four hours early. I get my own bus to come four hours early,’ Lehner began. “I sat for two hours and watched you guys talk shit on Twitter about me, to get me motivated.”
Lehner had a simple message to conclude his media availability after a heart-stopping win which evened the NHL Semifinal series, 2-2.
His message was in line with the surly goaltender who is the yin to Fleury’s yang. While the pair support each other, and the team supports both, fans like to choose a side. And the other guys is terrible.
“(Twitter hate) was great, just to see all you guys had to say. And, you know, I don’t care what people think,” Lehner declared. “It has been a weird kind of a weird season with a concussion in my surgery and stuff like that…since I got out of rehab and even before that in Buffalo, I’ve been putting up some pretty good numbers. And people act like what they did. I’m not very good, especially in our hometown.”
Vegas Golden Knights fans, ouch. Lehner saw it.
“But, you know, I had the love from the team, my teammates and my coaches,” he said. “And me and Flower got to really close this year supporting each other. And we don’t care about the noise.”
Game set and match.
Lehner has posted pretty good numbers over the last few seasons, since the formerly heralded goalie turned his life around from the NHL substance abuse program. He’s made no secret of his battle with alcohol or depression.
And Sunday night, he reminded everyone that he is the other starting goalie on the Vegas Golden Knights roster.
“He was excellent. I knew he’d be good,” DeBoer said. “There were a lot of things that went into (the decision to start Lehner). It was our 17th game in 33 or 34 nights. We wouldn’t be here without Flower and how he’s played for us, but that’s a lot of hockey. Two emotional series that were both really hard-fought…”
The fresh Lehner was big, literally and figuratively on Sunday. He stopped a few Montreal breakaway chances, including rookie hotshot Cole Caufield. The Vegas goalie stopped 27 of 28 shots and held his team in the game until Quebec native Nicolas Roy scored the game-winner.
He also offered a mock thank you to journalists and fans. Apparently, if you’d like to help the Golden Knights for Game 5 on Tuesday, hammer away on Lehner.
“So it’s just great. Motivation for me was very enjoyable on Twitter today. And thank you guys very much for giving me that motivation,” he said.