As the Vegas Golden Knights head to Montreal facing elimination in Game Six against the Canadiens, the spotlight is shining brightly on the road team. Lose and you’re done for the summer. Win and you push the series to a seventh and deciding game back on your home ice. Which goalie is the one to start – Robin Lehner or Marc-Andre Fleury?
When asked about his decision, head coach Pete DeBoer said he had already made up his mind.
“But I’m not telling you (the media),” said DeBoer. “I think either guy could go out and give us a win… but we’ve gotta pick one.”
So which one do you pick?
Each goaltender has won a game in this series, but Fleury has also lost three. Lehner won a critical Game Four and only allowed one goal, looking much sharper than his time away from the net might suggest. It’s not that Fleury has played poorly, in fact that’s seldom been the case. Run support has been lacking in the losses. It really poses a quandry for head coach Pete DeBoer, who seemed genuinely puzzled after his team’s Game Five loss on Tuesday night.
Do you play the goalie who won his last start on the road in Montreal? Or do you come back with the workhorse who has carried you this far?
There’s no right answer. Win or lose there will be more questions, but DeBoer never looks that far down the road.
“Our lineup decisions are based on what gives us the best chance to win (Game Six).”
Lehner came out with one of the best goaltending performances of the playoffs at a critical time. He made big saves at key times and gave his team a chance to take the lead and win. Without that Game Four victory, Vegas would already be golfing.
But then there’s Fleury, who has carried this team at times in the previous two series. At age 36 he’s turning in one of his best playoff performances ever. Fleury helped the Golden Knights shut down one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league in the Colorado Avalanche last series. And to be honest, the goals being scored by the Canadiens are often the result of turnovers and mistakes that result in odd-man situations. It’s a big ask of any goaltender.
The Game Six starter is a huge decision and a big weight on DeBoer. If he starts Lehner and wins, he almost has to come back with him in Game Seven. If you go with Lehner and lose, it pretty much says that’s that for Marc-Andre Fleury looking ahead to next season. If Fleury starts and wins, that’s the closest thing to the status quo we have. If Fleury starts and loses, it opens things up to more questioning as well and throws next season’s goaltending setup into an even muddier pool.
What has been hard to remember about the Vegas Golden Knights in this series is that it’s not goaltending killing the team. It’s the lack of scoring. When the season does end for the VGK, the post-mortem will look well upon the efforts of the pad-men, but question the disappearance of the offense and power play.
No matter which goaltender gets the nod for Game Six, the weight of the entire city of Las Vegas will be strapped firmly to his back. Win or go home.
Who would you start? Robin Lehner or Marc-Andre Fleury? Let us know in the comments.