Robin Lehner will be the starting goalie for the Vegas Golden Knights when they play the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Tuesday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, ATTSN-RM; NBCSCH).
Lehner was 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and one shutout in three regular-season games with the Golden Knights after he was acquired in a trade with the Blackhawks on Feb. 24. He played two of the three round-robin games for Vegas during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city, winning 5-3 against the Dallas Stars on Aug. 3 and 4-3 in overtime against the Colorado Avalanche on Aug. 8. That victory gave the Golden Knights the No. 1 seed in the West for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Chicago is the No. 8 seed.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who started each of Golden Knights’ first 27 playoff games after they entered the NHL in 2017-18 and helped them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018, was in goal for their 6-4 win against the St. Louis Blues on Aug. 6. He allowed four goals on 17 shots (.765 save percentage).
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“I think obviously a tough decision when you have two quality starting goaltenders,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “I think the best way I can explain it regarding the decision is it wasn’t what [Fleury] didn’t do, [Fleury] was great. It’s what Robin has done since he’s got here. I think he’s 5-0, and not just that, I thought he came into our camp after the pause was lights out and all the scrimmages. He has picked up right where he left off in the games. So this isn’t a case of one guy not getting the job done, it’s just one guy from the time he got here, just being fantastic.”
Lehner was 19-10-5 with a 2.89 GAA, .920 save percentage and one shutout in 36 games (34 starts) this season with the Golden Knights and Blackhawks. He was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the goalie voted as the best in the NHL, and won the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey after going 25-13-5 with a 2.13 GAA and .930 save percentage for the New York Islanders last season. He signed with the Blackhawks as an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2019.
Fleury was 27-16-5 with a 2.77 GAA, .905 save percentage and five shutouts in 49 games (48 starts). He has played 143 postseason games in the NHL, most of any active goalie and fifth in NHL history, and won the Stanley Cup three times with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, 2016 and 2017.
“Marc-Andre is the ultimate pro,” DeBoer said. “Every NHL player has a lot of pride and wants to play every night but there’s no one more professional in his relationships within the team or how he handles things or how he is in the community, than [Fleury], and that’s the ultimate compliment you can pay a professional athlete.”
Forward Max Pacioretty is expected to be in the lineup for the Golden Knights in Game 1. He did not play in the round-robin after sustaining an injury, but joined the team in Toronto and has been practicing.
Pacioretty led the Golden Knights with 32 goals and 66 points this season.