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McPhee Not Concerned About Lehner/DeBoer Relationship Because “People Get Over It”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The saga at the end of the season between the pipes for the Golden Knights was, well, messy.

It started with Robin Lehner fighting reports of his injuries publicly and it ended with him serving as the backup in a must-win game when he had already decided his season was over and he’d undergo shoulder surgery.

In between, there were soft goals, scathing public comments about his play, a goalie pull during a tie game, a press release about a maintenance day, and a whole lot of speculation.

It’s the second time in three seasons with Pete DeBoer behind the VGK bench that drama about the goalie has marred the end of a season. At least this time there weren’t any graphic memes on Twitter.

So now, the focus turns to the simple question of “can Pete DeBoer and Robin Lehner coexist as head coach and starting goalie of this team?”

During his postseason media availability, DeBoer detailed his entire decision-making process during the final few weeks of the season and even went as far as to express regret that he used the term “healthy” about Lehner down the stretch. He then pointed to the situation as the main reason why it got so contentious.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s friction at the end of a tough season between coaches and players or even players and players. Everyone’s frustrated, everyone’s pushing, there’s lots of tough conversations that are had down the stretch in those situations and you are pushing people to max amount because we need it. This isn’t something that’s unique to us or our group or Robin Lehner. -DeBoer

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VGK’s Frustration Visibly Noticeable To Opponents

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been eerily quiet since the Golden Knights season finale. There hasn’t been a peep from any of Vegas’ players, coaches, or executives since their postgame press conferences on Friday night. It’s almost as if The Creator and his staff are choosing the next Pope.

Without any knowledge of the conversations being held it’s impossible to guess which direction Vegas is heading. Whatever it may be, it was apparently obvious to many lineups across the NHL.

I had a few teams tell me today that Vegas was always a very together team. Through good and bad. This year was the first year they really saw them as a frustrated team. Doors slamming in games, players showing frustration or snapping at each other occasionally during games. I don’t want anyone to take that I think the Vegas Golden Knights all despise each other because I don’t know if that’s true. –Elliotte Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

It’s no secret, Golden Knights fans witnessed their team’s frustration almost weekly. That’ll happen with extensive injuries, poor performances, and a struggling power play. However, we can’t hear the doors slamming or snapping on the bench. Mark Stone and other team leaders keep their locker room tight but it’s hard to believe it felt the same without the captain for most of the year. Add in injuries to Max Pacioretty and Alec Martinez and the chemistry had to have taken a hit.

When you’re losing and your season is slipping away that’s normal. Teams noticed it more this year. Was that just as frustration of the injuries and the season slipping away or is there any chance the fabric of this team has been changed and they have to address that. I don’t know. Teams noticed it this year, more than ever. –Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

Friedman’s advice to the Golden Knights is to address the goaltending situation. Over the weekend, the Sportsnet reporter continued to stress that Robin Lehner’s frustration and season ending injuries were sensitive matters.

The number one thing they have to deal with is Lehner. People are telling me wait. This is not over. There’s still more to go here. What’s everyone going to say? This is going to take some skill and handling. There are the possibilities of aftershocks. Is this something that the league and the Players Association are going to have to get involved in? Depending on where all of this goes. –Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

It doesn’t take a spyglass for an opposing team to hear or read about the tension between Lehner and the coaching staff down the stretch. It was on full display after Vegas’ late-season loss against the New Jersey Devils.

Is there a way to deal with this so that it can be solved to everyone’s satisfaction mentally, and physically, and emotionally without a series of aftershocks that further damage the franchise. If it’s not dealt with in a proper way it’s going to get worse before it gets better. –Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

The Stanley Cup playoffs begin tonight, unfortunately without the Golden Knights. On the bright side, missing the cut allows Vegas more time in the offseason. A head start helps examine prospects, target free agents, trades or anything else they feel they need to get sorted out. The next few days will reveal what the organization’s plans are going forward. Lehner, DeBoer, slamming doors, and teammates snapping are areas that need immediate attention.

Organization Requested Injured Lehner For Failed Stretch Run

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last night the Golden Knights were officially eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. Vegas failed in shootout for the third straight game, ending what was supposed to be a highly successful season. Over the past week, the team was desperate for points, and Logan Thompson, on no rest, gave them the best chance to succeed. It wasn’t ideal. Late season back-to-backs, four straight extended games, and endless pressure was one of the reasons the organization pleaded with Robin Lehner to play out the final few games.

He was unhappy with some of the criticism he was getting and being pulled. There were talks about how can we make this work, can you at least play through the season. Then he saw the doctors, he’s legitimately injured. They announced one surgery but I think there are two or three different injuries. –Elliotte Friedman, The Jeff Marek Show

Surely, had Lehner been available coach Pete DeBoer would have considered starting him against the Blackhawks. Or at the very least use him to support Thompson. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and the team was left with one option while Lehner prepares for season-ending surgery.

Lehner’s playing with two, possibly three really tough injuries. I just don’t know if it’s one thing or more than one thing. He’s left the team at times, he’s been injured at times. He’s tried to play through it, he’s competitive. It’s definitely effected his ability to be at his best. He’s not at his best but he’s competing. –Friedman, 32 Thoughts Podcast

Friedman reported the team had asked Lehner to finish out the season and fight through his injuries. I’m sure that’s a common conversation players have with coaches this time of year. In this case, Vegas’ goaltender was battling too many ailments to suit up. Playing through injuries and being publicly criticized must have annoyed and frustrated Lehner. Which shouldn’t surprise DeBoer or the front office.

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Lehner’s Plan For Season Ending Surgery Another VGK Communication Breakdown

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Coach Pete DeBoer had time to reflect on Wednesday’s season saving comeback win against Washington. His team controlled the puck overtime and in a matter of minutes Vegas remained in a playoff hunt. Also, with yesterday’s day off the Golden Knights head coach was able to further internalize his controversial but successful goalie change in a 1-1 tie.

The decision to start him, we pay him to start games like this. It’s the most important time of the year. He’s healthy he’s fresh he’s got a lot of energy. We need him at this point of the year. After that NJ game I felt like I wanted to give him the opportunity to bounce back. -Pete DeBoer, 04/20

After Wednesday’s victory the head coach answered questions about why he decided to start Robin Lehner in net. DeBoer explained that the higher paid goaltender should get the nod in big games. 20 minutes into the game he clearly felt differently. The veteran coach also emphasized that Lehner was not injured and that the goalie was rested.

He’s healthy he’s fresh he’s got a lot of energy.-Pete DeBoer, 04/20

But the latest information refutes DeBoer’s claim. ESPN’s Emily Kaplan and The Athletic’s Jesse Granger both reported that Lehner will undergo season ending surgery.

Normally, these type of conflicting reports are further cleared up by the organization. That is if, they had the same information about Lehner’s health. However, today after Golden Knights practice things got weird.

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“Just Being Good Is Not Good Enough Right Now”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Injuries have dominated the storyline for the Golden Knights this season and they are a huge reason why the team is where it is in the playoff picture with 11 games to go.

Recently though Vegas has started to see a few key pieces return to the lineup and with them has come a growing confidence that they can push through and claim one of the final playoff spots.

I think when a player comes back it’s a boost for the team. The team does a little bit extra to try and make it good for you. -Robin Lehner

This has been on full display for the Golden Knights recently. From the three-goal comeback against Chicago in Alec Martinez’s return to the shutout in Seattle when Brayden McNabb stepped back into the lineup to the overtime win in Vancouver in Lehner’s return.

The challenge is to keep it up. Not only for the team to continue playing at a “boosted” level, but also to get consistent performances from those who have been out of the lineup and are likely not fully healthy.

I feel I’m close, but this time of year I need to be better than my 100 percent. It’s time to raise the bar. All of us. We need to win and there’s no other option. Just being good is not good enough right now. -Lehner

Lehner likely speaks for most players in the Golden Knights’ lineup. Rarely is any player completely healthy at this time of the season, but with a year like Vegas has had it’s to be expected that most guys are less than 100%. Adding Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone back into the mix will only muddy up these already muddy waters as well.

It’s going to be up to Pete DeBoer to find the balance necessary to get everything out of his players without asking too much from those who aren’t physically capable of it.

We have the luxury of not having to load up anyone on defense with the group we have back there. Up front we’re not as deep with the group we’ve got out we don’t have an option but to load up some of those guys. We can’t leave any bullets in the gun for playoffs until we clinch a ticket to make sure we are there. -DeBoer

Vegas does have the benefit of time between games for the rest of this week but then the schedule tightens up substantially for the final six games.

Decision-making will be paramount down the stretch because one wrong move could be fatal for a team that needs every win they can possibly get.

Vegas Recognizes What They’re Dealing With

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Tonight the Golden Knights will face an electric Florida Panthers team that won’t have trouble scoring. In their last ten games, the Panthers have 40 combined goals scored. Vegas on the other hand, has a total of 25. It well could be another one of those nights. We’re all hoping it’s not.

This is not how Vegas operates. Vegas isn’t fond about making excuses. Maybe management would look at it and say ‘we got thirty million dollars worth of players that are wearing suits.’ I don’t know if the owner looks at it that way. -Jeff Marek on 32 Thoughts Podcast

Of course, fans would rather the Golden Knights compete for a Stanley Cup this postseason but it seems like a hopeless dream at this point. Vegas has been devastated with injuries and there’s no doubting that. The Golden Knights’ goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals may have unfortunately been upended by the injury bug. It’s an excuse, but some would argue it’s a darn good excuse.

Look at how much money you’ve got in injured reserve or long term injured reserve. Between all of those guys you’re over $30 million dollars out of the lineup. -Elliotte Friedman on 32 Thoughts Podcast

Most injuries are uncontrollable and an unfortunate element of professional sports. Sadly, some teams cannot make up for impactful players getting hurt and missing significant amounts of time. It’s unlikely the Golden Knights will never be fully healthy this season. Even if the club makes a remarkable run to the finals it won’t be enough time for each injury to completely heal. Don’t get me wrong, if Mark Stone and Alec Martinez are available in the playoffs they will dress. They may not be 100% healthy but they will play their tuchuses off.

Realistically, it probably wouldn’t be enough to eliminate Calgary, Colorado, or Tampa Bay in a seven-game series. So, what’s wrong with planning ahead?

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With Or Without You Standings: Which Players Absence Hurts VGK Most?

The great modern-day philosopher Bono once wrote, and then subsequently sang like 100,000 times, “I can’t live, with or without you.”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Unfortunately, for the Golden Knights, they haven’t had that option. 62 games into the season, not a single player has played in every game on the schedule, and just six have missed fewer than six games. They’ve been doing a lot of “living without you.”

Whose absence has hurt the most though?

For that, we go to the WOWY (with or without you) standings to find out the answer is clearly Keegan Kolesar. But seriously, it’s been Reilly Smith, Brayden McNabb, and Mark Stone.

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The Split Is Widening After Lopsided Defeat

Unfortunately in today’s climate, the country is split for many reasons that we won’t delve into. This unfortunate trend has become reality for Golden Knights fans as well. By now I’m sure you’ve seen the division in the fanbase. For some, it’s either you are a Robin Lehner supporter or you’re not. And of course, after Tuesday night’s debacle, the detractors were loud.

I think there are fans that have different reasons but it all comes down to this: his name is not Marc-Andre Fleury. His style is not Marc-Andre Fleury. And that’s what fans were used to since the team’s inception. Change is hard when it comes to goaltenders, especially when the face of the city is unceremoniously dumped for cap space.-Mike McKenna, Daily Faceoff

The chatter began to heat up after the Golden Knights defeated the Oilers 4-0 on Tuesday night. Backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit started the first game of a back-to-back situation and secured his first shutout of the season. After the game, many were calling for coach Pete DeBoer to elevate Brossoit as the permanent starter. This wasn’t the first time certain fans had pleaded for a swap in roles.

The Golden Knights coach could have started Lehner against Edmonton but he chose not to. Instead, DeBoer used his ace in what he considered an important game. This is what the head coach said in Calgary when asked about the status of captain Mark Stone.

This was an important game. He would’ve played if he could have. We’ll check him out when we get back to Vegas. -Pete DeBoer

That short statement should tell fans where the coaching staff stands. DeBoer dresses his best players (when available) in bigger games.

Getting back to the divide amongst the fanbase. It’s reasonable for fans to be concerned with Lehner’s overall performance this season. Fans expressing disappointment shouldn’t be charged as a hater. Most care about the team’s success, not one individual’s. So, it shouldn’t be considered trolling when pointing out that Lehner is below his career averages in Save % and Goals Allowed Average.

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DeBoer Explains Process Of Selecting Shootout Order

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Roy*, Theodore*, Marchessault, Dadonov, Patrick, Karlsson*, Stone*

Dadonov, Stephenson, Marchessault

Theodore*, Marchessault, Roy*

Roy, Dadonov, Marchessault*

Stephenson, Marchessault, Roy*, Dadonov*

Those are the order of shooters in the Golden Knights’ five shootouts this season. (*=Goal)

Vegas has scored on nine of their 20 attempts, which has them at 45%, the 5th best success rate in the NHL this season. In fact, only one other team (ANA) has at least nine shootout goals this year, and the Golden Knights have more successful shootout attempts than the Flyers, Hurricanes, Canadiens, Bruins, Islanders, Jets, and Senators combined.

This has led VGK to a 4-1 record in the tiebreaking skills competition, which clearly proves whatever process goes into selecting their shooters is working brilliantly.

Recently, appearing on The Press Box on ESPN 1100, Pete DeBoer dove into that process.

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Iole: Robin Lehner Holds The Keys To Ultimate Success

This season, diehard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist Kevin Iole will be delivering columns a few times a month on Sundays. Kevin’s back today to take a look at a position of depth, one that’s been notoriously thin in years past.

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

There is no more important player to the Golden Knights’ chances of capturing the Stanley Cup in a few months — not Jack Eichel, not Mark Stone, not Alex Pietrangelo — than Robin Lehner.

The Knights will be a Cup favorite if Lehner plays during the playoffs the way he played on Saturday in a 3-2 shootout victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.

Lehner was consistently excellent on Saturday and he actually out-dueled the great Andrei Vasilevskiy in the shootout.

Lehner has been one of the five best Golden Knights during the season, though to hear many fans grumble about him, they act as if he were the modern version of Roberto Romano (Look him up; it’s not pretty).

He’s not Marc-Andre Fleury, not in terms of personality, not in terms of athleticism nor in terms of lineage.

Fleury’s mistakes were often overlooked in both Las Vegas and Pittsburgh because of his mega-watt smile, his incredible humility, and his super-human athleticism.

Lehner isn’t a charismatic personality, but not a lot of hockey players are. As a group, their public personas fall somewhere between ultra-vanilla — “The guys played great in front of me” — to vomit-inducing. Have you ever listened to what Reilly Smith says during his interviews? And it doesn’t take Lieutenant Columbo to figure out that he’d rather be doing anything short of sticking needles in his eyes than appearing on an intermission interview or answering questions from the media.

Lehner, for some reason, has become the whipping boy for the VGK fans and it’s highly unfair and highly unsophisticated. Has he let in goals that he should have stopped? No question.

There are basically zero stand-up goalies in the NHL today, but at 6 feet 4, 255 pounds, Lehner is the one guy who could do it and be successful. He’s a smart goaltender and thinks the game well, and by playing his angles intelligently, he takes away most of that by standing up.

It’s when he gets moving that he gets into trouble. That hurt him Saturday against Tampa, when he was down and the puck went into the net off of him. It even happened in the shootout.

Lehner won the job from Fleury by merit in the bubble in 2020, Allan Walsh’s ridiculous stab-in-the-back picture notwithstanding. Lehner outplayed Fleury by a large margin and gave the Knights the kind of goaltending they needed to win the Cup. That had nothing to do with playing Lehner over Fleury and everything to do with forwards who in The Bubble suddenly couldn’t hit the ocean from the deck of the Titanic.

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