The Golden Knights must feel confident after clinching their second Pacific Division title in three seasons. The fact they’ll bypass a five game qualifying series isn’t half-bad either.
Now, with the announcement to re-seed after each round, the round-robin isn’t just for a tune up any longer. With the importance of a top seed, will the Golden Knights go all out to on win the tournament, or get prepared for a “real” playoff series?
When you look at the statistics of the goalies Vegas will face in the round robin, it’s going to take terrific goaltending to clinch the top seed. St. Louis starts a 26-year-old Stanley Cup winning goaltender who won 30 games this season. Dallas’ Ben Bishop is 6’7, and has finished top-three in Vezina Trophy votes three times. And Colorado has two goaltenders that are undefeated against the Golden Knights this season. So, if it’s Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner they’ll be evenly matched on the other side of the ice.
2019-20 Round-Robin Goaltending Statistics
St. Louis: 2.68 Goals Allowed Per Game (5th-NHL)
Jordan Binnington: 2.56 GAA, .912 Save %, 30-13-7 Record, 28 Quality Starts
vs. Vegas: 1-0-1, 3.92 GAA, .901 SV%
Dallas: 2.52 Goals Allowed Per Game (2nd-NHL)
Ben Bishop: 2.50 GAA, .920 Save %, 21-16-4 Record, 27 Quality Starts
vs. Vegas: 1-0-1, 2.48 GAA, .917 SV%
Colorado: 2.71 Goals Allowed Per Game (6th-NHL)
Pavel Francouz: 2.41 GAA, .923 Save %, 21-7-4 Record, 17 Quality Starts
vs. Vegas: 1-0, 3.00 GAA, .906 SV%
Philip Grubauer: 2.63 GAA, .916 Save %, 18-12-4 Record, 17 QS, Injured on 02/15
vs. Vegas: 1-0, 1.00 GAA, .962 SV%
Fleury and Lehner make up the best unit in the group of four but individually there’s not much of a difference. Not only will Vegas have to stop the puck against some high-offensive teams, they’ll need to support their goaltenders with an average of three or more goals per game. Which may be difficult in the round-robin.
For the offensive players there’s a tempo element to the game that really can’t be duplicated unless you’re on the ice. With hand skills, with shooting skills, with foot movements. Until you’re on the ice doing them, it doesn’t work.-McGuire, NBC Sports
If scoring is expected to be down early on as suggested by McGuire suggested than Vegas will need balance. If goals are tough to come by, Vegas’ duo have proven to be successful in low scoring affairs. Fleury is 22-1-1 and Lehner is 12-0-3 when allowing two goals or less. However, when you break down their splits neither backstop has had any success against Colorado.
In two starts each against the Avalanche this season, Fleury is 0-2 with a 7.13 GAA and Lehner was 1-1 with a 5.59 GAA. Choosing a starter for the game against the Avs might be a coin flip for DeBoer. Here’s how both fared this season against the round robin teams battling for the top seed.
Fleury vs. Colorado: 0-2, .713 GAA, .828 SV%
vs. Dallas: 0 Games
vs. St. Louis: 1-1, 3.99 GAA, .867 SV%
Lehner vs. Colorado: 1-1, 5.59 GAA, .822 SV%
vs. Dallas: OTL, 0.92 GAA, .976 SV%
vs. St. Louis: 0 Games
Say the Golden Knights lose their first seeding game, do they then shift towards preparation and change goalies? Or go for it with two games remaining? I’m guessing the organization will use those games to choose a starting goaltender, rebuild condition, intensity, and focus. All while battling for a top seed. It sets up for some dramatic round robin games.