Vegas Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer isn’t second-guessing his decision to start goaltender Robin Lehner in Game 1 of the second round — despite Lehner being hung out to dry in a 7-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Sunday night in Denver.
Vegas started Marc-Andre Fleury throughout the entire first-round series against the Minnesota Wild, including Friday’s Game 7 win. Fleury posted a .931 save percentage through that series, while Lehner had not played since a regular-season game on May 10.
“The decision to go with Robin was Flower just played seven games in 14 days, and an emotional Game 7,” DeBoer said, referring to Fleury by his nickname. “It was a perfect opportunity in our minds to use our other starter. That’s been a strength of ours all year. We wanted Robin to get in a game and stay sharp, in case we needed him. So there was a lot of rationale to it.”
Vegas indeed had a quick turnaround while Colorado had a week off between games, thanks to the Avalanche’s sweep of the Blues. And it showed, as Colorado looked much fresher on home ice.
The Golden Knights allowed 14 shots on goal in the first period on Sunday, despite averaging just 9.4 shots on goal in the first period across the Minnesota series. Lehner faced 37 shots on Sunday, stopping 30.
“The game tonight wasn’t about Robin Lehner,” DeBoer said. “We didn’t play well enough in front of him.”
Lehner was the Golden Knights’ primary starter during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, as Fleury rode the bench. Over his 16-start postseason run last year, Lehner posted a 1.99 GAA, .917 save percentage and four shutouts.
It hasn’t been as smooth for Lehner this season. He missed more than a month as he recovered from a concussion, while Sunday marked the fifth time in 20 appearances this season he allowed four goals or more.
Game 2 is Wednesday, giving the Golden Knights a much-needed two-day break.
“Let’s be honest, if you’re down 4-0 halfway through the game, that’s a long way to climb back from,” Vegas captain Mark Stone said. “But we’ll be ready for Wednesday. There’s no doubt in our group.”