After head coach Pete DeBoer refused to name his starting goaltender leading up to tonight’s critical Game Six in Montreal, Vegas Golden Knights forward Tomas Nosek inadvertently confirmed that it will be Robin Lehner starting tonight.
When asked a question at the end of his media availability about Lehner, Nosek wrapped his answer with “he’s a good goalie… hopefully he can prove that again tonight.”
So there you have it. All the secrecy, the cloak-and-dagger tactics… out the window. Lehner starts.
Lehner’s Game Four performance was a big one, getting the Golden Knights back to even with a 27-save performance that included some high-pressure saves. Winning a playoff game in overtime is a big test, but it was the saves Lehner made during regulation that allowed Vegas to tie the game and then secure the win. The biggest stop came on Cole Caufield’s breakaway chance when Montreal could have gone ahead 2-0.
Lehner’s other start in the playoffs was rough sledding, giving up seven goals to the Colorado Avalanche in Game One of that series, which the Vegas Golden Knights eventually won 4-2.
The real question on everyone’s mind will be which Robin Lehner shows up tonight? Given Lehner’s propensity to be motivated by big situation and/or other people talking smack about his level of play, my expectation is that we see the fired-up, big-save version of him.
That alone is a good reason for DeBoer to come back with Lehner tonight. He’s a battler who is motivated by proving people wrong.
Another good reason for the selection is Lehner’s big game in the series was in Montreal. It’s no secret that having only 3,500 fans at the Bell Centre makes a difference in atmosphere, but whatever pressure there was did not seem to rattle Lehner. One of the biggest concerns I had – his propensity to give up a soft goal early – was nowhere to be found in Game Four. He came in focused and ready to go.
Vegas really needs Lehner to deliver his best game yet. It may take stopping everything to turn back the Canadiens, who have a chance to move on to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993. Vegas needs to play with the confidence to jump into the play and create odd-man situations on the offensive side of the puck, and a major part of that is knowing the guy in the net behind you can bail you out if it comes to that.
Finally, Lehner is pretty fresh. He’s played two games in the last seven weeks or so. Energy will not be an issue and hopefully, that carries over to the rest of the team as well.
The playoff fate of the Vegas Golden Knights rides on the pads of Robin Lehner tonight. Game Six puck drop is slated for 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT on USA Network.