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Knights on Ice — Look Who’s Watching
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For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Las Vegas, NV
Monday, June 21, 2021


Most hockey players have game-day rituals that are the same for every game. Among them is arriving at the rink about 2 hours before a game. I’m not sure what Robin Lehner’s rituals were prior to coming to the VGK, but these days, he gets to the rink 4 hours before a game. Why does Robin Lehner need the extra 2 hours? He told us why in his post-game presser after he’d played an important role in the VGK beating the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in overtime to even this best of 7 series at 2 games apiece.

Robin takes a team bus all by himself 4 hours before the game so he can “watch you guys talk shit about me on Twitter.” He says it motivates him. After watching him yesterday, I believe he was fully motivated. He played about as well as anyone could have hoped for in a game that the VGK really needed. If they’d lost last night, a season with high expectations would have fallen short, way short. In my opinion, they wouldn’t have been able to beat Montreal 3 games in a row, especially the way Montreal has been able to shut down their offense, particularly Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. Combine that with Carey Price between the pipes and with a 3-1 lead, Montreal was headed to the Stanley Cup Final and Vegas would have fallen by the wayside yet another time.
I’m not even sure that the VGK could have won last night if Robin Lehner hadn’t been the goaltender. That’s how good he was.

When this series started back on June 14, the talk was how quickly would the VGK dispose of the Canadiens and punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final for the 2nd time in the 4-year history. The hockey pundits for the most part were under the impression that Carey Price could steal a game or 2 before Vegas eliminated them. In fact, Robin Lehner was playing for the first time in 21 days and he was the one who stole a game that Montreal deserved to win, being the better team for almost the entire game.
In 5-on-5 situations, Montreal had 18 high-danger scoring chances. Vegas had zero. Vegas went over 6 minutes without a shot on goal in the first period and had only 4 shots total on Carey Price after 20 minutes. It looked bleak after 40 minutes and the only reason this game was still in reach was because of Lehner. He made key saves throughout the game, but the one that stands out was on Cole Caufield at the 7:16 mark of the 3rd period.

Montreal was leading 1-0 on Paul Byron’s breakaway goal off a pass from former VGK draft pick Nick Suzuki, who’d just exited the penalty box. Byron beat Lehner high over his blocker with just 1:05 left in the second period. If Caufield scored on his breakaway, combined with the defense that has smothered the top 6 forwards of the VGK through the first 4 games of this series, you could pretty much have cued the fat lady to start singing.

Robin is in a difficult situation here in Las Vegas as the other goaltender. The city of Las Vegas has their adopted son, his name is Marc-Andre Fleury is the city’s adopted son. He’s been here since day one and is held in reverence. Since he can do no wrong, it’s created a disdain for Lehner among the loyal fan base. Some are new to hockey and may not understand the value of having a goaltending tandem like Lehner and Fleury. Last night, that value was as bright as the light that beams off of the top of Luxor.

Coach DeBoer has claimed he knows how to push the right buttons come playoff time. When you consider his success with 3 different franchises (NJ Devils, San Jose Sharks, and the VGK) and their deep runs in the playoffs, you have to admit he has a valid argument. The button he pushed last night while sitting Marc-Andre Fleury caused the internet to blow up. It also motivated Robin Lehner to play a whale of a game.

DeBoer claimed in his post-game comments it was about fatigue. Fleury has played every playoff game (15) except one. But now what? For Game 5 tomorrow, Fleury will have had 3 days off since playing Game 3 on Friday. What do you think he’ll do?

The talking heads on NBC all claim that DeBoer has no choice but to play Robin on Tuesday. If Robin was motivated by the shit about him on Twitter, wouldn’t you think Fleury is motivated and biting at the bit to redeem himself for his gaffe in Game 3?

Brayden McNabb tied the game on a nice pass from William Karlsson with 9:23 to go. Price would normally stop that shot, but it somehow snuck by him, just between his left arm and body. Hockey is a strange game and last night the team that deserved to win didn’t and in Game 3 the team that didn’t deserve to win did.

The overtime didn’t last long and just like the VGK got beat with the long change in overtime in Game 3, things equaled out. Vegas got some fresh legs on the ice with Pacioretty joining Tuch and Roy. Pacioretty skated around the net and pushed the puck toward the feet of Carey Price. Nicolas Roy, in front of Price, got his first shot off. Price made the save. Roy regained the puck and waited just long enough to catch Price out of position, then lofted the puck over the outstretched Price for the game-winning goal just 1:18 into overtime. This now sets up a best-of-3 series with 2 games at T-Mobile.

Game notes and quotes.

Brayden McNabb was the 7th VGK defenseman to score a goal in these playoffs, which ties an NHL record with 5 other teams: 1987 Edmonton Oilers, 1988 Calgary Flames, 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins, 1994 Washington Capitals, and 2019 Boston Bruins.

Going into last night’s overtime, Montreal was 4-0, Vegas was 1-3.

Lehner on not playing a lot during the postseason: “We’re on a Stanley Cup journey with a great team. In my heart, it doesn’t matter if I’m on the bench or in the net. It’s a team game. Everything is so blown out of proportion.”

“I think a lot has to be said about Robin’s attitude this whole time,” Pacioretty said. “He’s been the number-one cheerleader on the team when he wasn’t playing. His positivity has rubbed off on us, so for him to go in there tonight, the player that we know he is, was huge for our team.”

“Lehner was excellent,” DeBoer said. “I knew he’d be good.”

My 3 Stars of the Game
1) Robin Lehner (stopped 27 of 28 shots and 18 were considered high-danger scoring chances)
2) Nicolas Roy (GWG in overtime)
3) Brayden McNabb (1G that got the game to OT)

Next game is tomorrow at T-Mobile 6 p.m. Pacific Time

If you want to hear and see more VGK content please check out the podcast I do with Eddie Rivkin on YouTube, Hockey Knights in Vegas.

Your comments and opinions are welcome here at Las Vegas Advisor or you may contact me directly at [email protected] or on my Facebook page or the Face
Facebook page of Vegas Hockey Guy or on Twitter @TheRealJoePane
One other note: If you’re reading this blog from Facebook or Twitter and would like to access it earlier in the morning before I share it on social media, it’s usually published by 8 a.m. the morning after a game on LasVegasAdvisor.com. What better way is there to enjoy your morning coffee than reading my take on last night’s VGK game.

McNabb goal that tied the game

Lehner’s big save on Caufield in the 3rd period

Roy’s OT winning goal

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