Vegas Golden Knights head coach Pete DeBoer made a bold move by switching from Vezina candidate Marc Andre-Fleury to Robin Lehner. If Allan Walsh could drum up a second sword through the back of Fleury to post on Twitter, I’m sure he would have fired it off immediately albeit the world of Twitter took care of it for him.
While the move struck nerves and was met with a sounding disapproval – whether just or not is another story – the move paid off. Lehner absolutely stonewalled the Montreal Canadiens stopping 27 of 28 shots in the game effectively swiping away the doubters hanging on the Colorado series opener. Game 4 was easily the most dominated game by the Canadiens in the series from start to almost finish unlike game 3 that saw the Habs escape with a stolen victory. Lehner did exactly what was needed and more importantly the tandem of Fleury and Lehner worked as designed.
Even though Lehner stood tall in net, the true problem for the Golden Knights was not Fleury’s gaffe in game 3 or the weak goal he surrendered in their other loss. The issue that had desperation at almost its highest peak for the club is the top line being an almost non-factor. With Chandler Stephenson out of the lineup, DeBoer has been scratching his head with trying to get the line going. William Karlsson hasn’t worked, Alex Tuch hasn’t worked and while Tomas Nosek is a helluva depth player, having him center the top line brings not much of a concern for the opposition.
For the Golden Knights to get past the Canadiens, which they should, they need Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty to become dominant again. Dominant in the way Pacioretty powered himself and the puck towards the net in overtime to set up Nicolas Roy who slammed home his own rebound. Pacioretty who had largely been a force since returning to the lineup for the final Minnesota Wild game, went quiet through the opening 2 against the Canadiens. Mark Stone has been held off the stat sheet for the past 5 games after picking up 8 points over the first two rounds. More often than not, Stone has been caught flipping the puck into the zone but not able to generate much pressure of the opposing defenders. The duo combined for 16 points with Stephenson at the center spot (22 for the trio) over the 14 games he had suited up for until this point.
Not having Stephenson in the lineup has shown vulnerability in the center depth for the club at the worst possible time. Fortunately, the defense led by Alex Pietrangelo has powered the offense through but that realistically can only take you so far. This is blatant obvious statement but in order for the Golden Knights to get the hardware this season, the top guns need to be exactly that. Hopefully the move by Pacioretty last night will be the flip of the switch to get the ignition firing on all cylinders again.
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