At some point Friday, if he hasn’t already made up his mid, Peter DeBoer will choose his Game 7 goalie.
Robin Lehner or Marc-Andre Fleury. Those are his two choices as Vegas tries to beat the Canucks and avoid blowing as 3-1 series lead for the second straight postseason Friday night (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream).
“Whoever plays, plays. If I get to play tomorrow I’ll do my best, like I always do,” Lehner said after the 4-0 Game 6 loss. “I feel pretty good out there. The bounces aren’t going our way right now. They get two posts and in, we get two posts and out. There was a couple of open nets that just bounced on us in the first period. Small margins. If you play, you just gotta do your best.”
There are pros and cons for each choice, but who DeBoer ultimately turns to won’t address the biggest issue facing the Golden Knights: solving Thatcher Demko. The Canucks rookie netminder has stopped 90 of the last 91 shots he’s faced.
Vegas, one of the highest-scoring playoff teams (3.29 goals per game), has two goals in two games. They’ve been the best possession so far (62% unblocked shot attempt advantage, per Natural Stat Trick) and own a 63-30 even shot advantage at 5-on-5 since Game 5. They also lead in high-danger scoring chances 22-14.
So as Lehner said, the bounces really aren’t going their way and Demko poses a big problem.
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“There’s no magic solution when they pack five guys around the net like they do,” DeBoer said. “They do a good job of it, and you’ve got to penetrate.”
The fact that Friday is Game 7 might allow Vegas to not let any frustration from the last two games linger and instead focus on advancing.
“We’ve got to win one game to move on,” said DeBoer. “We’ll reset, come out [Friday] and we’ll put ourselves in a position here where we win a game, we get to move forward, and that’s what we’ve got to concentrate on.”
However the Golden Knights feel about their lack of finishing since Game 5, there’s no time for second-guessing. Only the chance for a good night of sleep, some rest, and then right back at Rogers Place with their season on the line.
“We don’t have time to think about anything. This is a back-to-back,” said forward Max Pacioretty. “Someone mentioned this is a unique scenario and one that we’ve never been in. You don’t get back-to-backs in the playoffs in a regular year. It’s nice that we’re going to have this opportunity [Friday]. You don’t want to sit around the room in the bubble and think about what went wrong to get to this point.
“This is what you dream about, so we should be excited for the challenge.”
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.