The Vegas Golden Knights may have just had a trade deadline-esque pick up for a playoff run without having to sacrifice a roster player or draft pick.
It had been well over a month since Robin Lehner last appeared in net for the Golden Knights, snagging a 29 save win over the Los Angeles Kings. Lehner had been out until March 19th, dealing with his third concussion of his career. While the load has been carried almost solely by Marc-Andre Fleury with Vezina worthy results, the addition of a healthy Lehner provides a punch that very few teams can counter.
Simply put, having Fleury playing like he is with a healthy Lehner there to lessen the load puts Vegas in even more of a threat for the Stanley Cup. Going in to the season, Vegas was considered to have one of the best duos but for a stretch prior to his injury, the numbers were not looking good for Lehner in net. Since returning to the net, he has been lights out in the two games he has started. In the two wins, he is sporting a .927 SV% and a 1.50 GAA. Pair it with Fleury’s .931 SV% and 1.93 GAA and it’s pretty easy to see the dynamic duo is primed for a run in the playoffs.
The only other team that has a duo dominating the net as good as Vegas can is the New York Islanders with Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin. For the immediate battles in the West, while Philip Grubauer has been arguably the best goalie in the NHL this season, there is no buffer behind him to help Colorado when they need it. While Colorado went out and picked up Jonas Johansson from the Buffalo Sabres, he and Hunter Miska are last ditch attempts for a Grubauer break. Johansson himself was bested for 4 goals including a shootout undressing by the meek offense of the Coyotes yesterday so there is no solid backup option for the Avalanche right now.
While the Colorado Avalanche are a deeper team outside of the crease, if Fleury and Lehner continue to dominate the crease, Alex Pietrangelo returns strong, get more from the depth in scoring (i.e. Riley Smith) and get the powerplay rolling, realistically Colorado is the only team that should be a legitimate threat against Vegas in the playoffs. Either way, the run to the end of the season and playoffs should be another thrill in Vegas.
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