Robin Lehner has been through a lot on and off the ice in his career. It seems that he used a lot of it, plus some talking-head opinions on Twitter, as fuel for an outstanding Game 4 performance that evened up the Stanley Cup Playoff Semifinals series at 2-2 between the Montreal Canadiens and the Vegas Golden Knights.
It is now a best-of-three as the series shifts back to Sin City for Game 5 on Tuesday night. Even though Montreal has hung right in there with Vegas for the most part, the Golden Knights are still a really large favorite in the -250 range per Bookmaker Sportsbook with a total of 5 juiced to the over.
The Montreal Canadiens would have looked at a 2-2 split prior to the series and been happy with it, especially if they knew that head coach Dominique Ducharme would have to be isolated at home because of a positive test for COVID-19. The Canadiens now get to take their chances in a best-of-three.
The two games at the Bell Centre went to overtime and Montreal won one and Vegas won the other. This could very well be a 3-1 Montreal lead going back to the desert, but Nicolas Roy scored for the visiting Knights to tie up the series. Montreal has been the more prepared team at the start of games. They’ve had the better first periods. They had another simply outstanding first period in Game 4, but couldn’t get the lead and it proved costly.
Montreal had a 17-2 edge in high-danger chances at 5-v-5 in Game 4. The scoring chances were 24-21 in favor of the Habs, but the higher-quality chances went in Montreal’s favor. Lehner was equal to the task and that was enough to give Vegas a chance for that game-winning goal. It was still an effort to be proud of for Montreal and the fact that they split at T-Mobile Arena should bring some measure of confidence into Game 5.
Carey Price has stopped 117 of 127 shots in this series for a .921 SV%. Price had a really marginal regular season with a .901 SV%, but he’s been nails in the playoffs with a stellar .931 SV%. He only had 16 “Quality Starts” as defined by Hockey-Reference in the regular season. He has nine in these playoffs alone, the most he’s ever had in a single postseason.
Vegas Golden Knights
Luck and Las Vegas don’t always go hand in hand, but the Golden Knights got very lucky in Game 4. Peter DeBoer made the choice to go with Robin Lehner to give Marc-Andre Fleury a blow. Fleury had played a lot of hockey in a short amount of time and the reality is that Lehner was supposed to be the starter over Fleury anyway, but that wound up changing as the season went along.
Lehner was magnificent in Game 4 with the deck stacked against him. He had only played one game in virtually a month and it was a huge game with a lot on the line. He got very little help from his offense, too. Vegas had ZERO high-danger chances in regulation at 5-v-5. Not one. They had three in overtime and scored on it for the game-winning goal to send the season home tied at 2-2.
The Golden Knights have not gotten a lot of big games from their star players. A lot of guys have been passengers, watching everybody else do the work. For a while, it was that the Golden Knights couldn’t finish. Vegas would get chances, but not finish them off. Now, they’re not even really getting the chances. Montreal has 50 high-danger chances at 5-v-5 compared to 34 for Vegas.
The saddest part is that Vegas doesn’t seem to have really adjusted much. The Knights miss Chandler Stephenson, who is questionable for Game 5, but they really miss guys that are on skates and in the lineup even more and just have not gotten the contributions.
We’ll see Lehner again in Game 5 after he stopped 27 of 28 shots in the pivotal Game 5 victory. Fleury outplayed Lehner during the regular season, but Robin’s numbers weren’t bad with a .913 SV% and a 2.29 GAA. He just wasn’t on Fleury’s level and wound up only playing 19 games. If nothing else, he is very fresh for however long this run goes.
Canadiens vs. Golden Knights Free Pick
This is such a big favorite role for Vegas when this series has been going Montreal’s way at 5-v-5. The Golden Knights should win, but Montreal is a very live dog here. The last three games have all been decided by one goal, so if you were worried about taking Montreal with the big underdog price, the +1.5 is listed at -145. It sure seems like a blowout is unlikely. This will probably be another 3-2 game one way or the other. We’ll say Montreal for the pick, or maybe Montreal on the money line for the first period, because the value is on that side.
Pick: Montreal Canadiens