Updated September 24, 2021 - 9:13 am
Robin Lehner knew he could remain at his former weight and continue to be a successful goaltender.
But after turning 30 in July, Lehner started to contemplate his long-term future. And the Golden Knights goaltender realized if he wanted to play beyond the four years left on his contract, changes needed to be made.
Lehner went to work reshaping his body and was noticeably trimmer Thursday as the Knights opened training camp at City National Arena.
“People can debate it, but the last three years I’ve been heavy,” Lehner said. “Here in Vegas they like it flashy, so I need to be a little faster. We’ll see what I can do.”
Lehner is listed at 240 pounds on the official NHL website, but said he gained weight after undergoing treatment for drug and alcohol addiction in 2018. He referenced his medication, presumably for his bipolar 1 condition, as one of the reasons for the weight gain.
Along the way, Lehner adapted his style of play in net to suit his expanded size, remaining deeper in the crease and relying on his ability to read plays as they unfold. He referred to his technique as “calculated cheating” and joked after his lunging glove save against Vancouver in the 2020 postseason that “big man can move when he wants to.”
But he also seemed to know he was tempting fate long term by carrying the excess weight and also leaving himself more susceptible to injury.
“It’s just more precaution,” Lehner said. “As I said on Twitter, my wife likes me a little bit better lighter, too.”
Lehner started training with John Wood, who owns Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas. Wood posted a picture of the fitter Lehner on his Instagram account Sept. 15 after a workout.
People want me skinny this year so I guess kung fu panda needs a new nickname soon 😂 https://t.co/Djl8P9ZAiM
— Robin Lehner (@RobinLehner) September 16, 2021
Lehner also used mixed martial arts training before the 2016-17 season with Buffalo and went on to have his best season with the Sabres, posting a 2.68 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 59 games for a team that missed the playoffs.
When asked how much weight he’s lost, Lehner said he hasn’t gotten on the scale. But he plans to keep shedding pounds leading up to the season opener Oct. 12 against Seattle.
“He looks awesome. You can tell how hard he worked,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I didn’t see him all summer. He walked in the door, looked like a different guy. So you can see he’s put in the work.”
— Robin Lehner (@RobinLehner) September 23, 2021
Lehner was plagued by a concussion last season and missed more than a month, but teamed with Marc-Andre Fleury to win the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed.
With Fleury in Chicago after an offseason trade, Lehner is expected to shoulder the load in net for the Knights. Since 2018-19, Lehner ranks second in the league in save percentage (.923) among goaltenders with 50 or more appearances.
Lehner said he will have to adjust to his slimmer frame and the increased quickness that comes with it. But it should allow him to play a more diverse style.
“I think it changes my game a little bit,” he said.
As evidence, Lehner flashed a windmill glove save during the team’s scrimmage Thursday and joked afterward he learned it from Fleury.
”I think it’s going to be a learning thing for me with losing more weight even before the season starts,” Lehner said. “You’re there a little bit too fast. Little timing things, but we’ll work on it. And I think I can add some things to my game.”
Golden Knights preseason schedule
Sunday: vs. San Jose, 7 p.m., KTNV-13
Tuesday: vs. Colorado, 7 p.m., KTNV-13
Thursday: vs. Los Angeles (in Salt Lake City), 6 p.m., KTNV-13
Oct. 1: vs. Los Angeles, 7 p.m., KTNV-13
Oct. 5: at Colorado, 6 p.m., KTNV-13
Oct. 7: vs. Arizona, 7 p.m., KTNV-13
Oct. 9: at San Jose, 5 p.m., TV TBA