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Graney: Decision to pull Robin Lehner head-scratcher with Knights

Updated April 21, 2022 - 5:03 am

He led the Golden Knights out for warmups Wednesday night to the surprise of, well, everyone except those who told him to do so. Robin Lehner started in net against Washington.

And then he was gone after a period.

And you wondered: What in the world is going on with this team and its goalie situation?

The veteran Lehner played the first 20 minutes of a 4-3 overtime win over the Capitals before an announced crowd of 18,240 at T-Mobile Arena.

But when it came time for the second period to begin, Logan Thompson skated out to assume his position in the crease.

At this point, where, oh, where is this Laurent Brossoit guy?

First thing first. Coach Pete DeBoer’s selection of Lehner to start was overly curious in this way: He hasn’t been very good since returning from injury April 3. Not at all.

Meanwhile, Thompson has won seven of his past 10 decisions with a save percentage of .922 over .889 for Lehner for five games since returning before Wednesday.

Health issues?

DeBoer, however, stayed with the goalie he had said didn’t do enough in a 3-2 loss to oh-so-lowly New Jersey on Monday. Stayed with Lehner despite having talked up Thompson’s consistency.

Who exactly wants who to play on this team?

DeBoer said after Wednesday’s game that these are the ones Lehner is paid to start, but thought that the team appeared rattled late in the first period.

He pulled Lehner after the goalie stopped 12 of 13 shots in the first period. Was he that shaky in allowing one goal?

Health? DeBoer said Lehner is 100 percent and fresh. It sure hasn’t appeared as such since he returned — his play has said as much. He can’t be totally right. It’s an opinion that Lehner — and obviously DeBoer — would be sure to contest.

But this part is undeniable: There is far too much indecision with what should be the most important of calls for this team right now. If the ship eventually sinks and the Knights miss the playoffs, who is going down with it in goal? So, too, if it steadies enough to make the postseason.

Question also is, could such a determination also decide who within management might take such a plunge should the Knights miss out? Guess that’s also part of the waiting game.

Look. They’ve reached the point of fighting for their playoff lives of their own doing. We know about the injuries. Too many to count. There are teams that suffer a handful throughout the course of a season and then there are the Knights.

They have been a walking, never-much-for-talking MASH unit.

But time and again, DeBoer has insisted there remained enough skill on the ice to win, no matter the prominent names who might have been sidelined.

Hasn’t really played out as such.

Impressive win

All sorts of reasons. Bad turnovers at the worst possible times. Back-and-forth calls on who should start in goal. Lack of star power for long stretches. Can’t score enough. Poor coaching in regards to special teams.

You can’t forfeit as important a component as the power play and expect to win consistently. It’s like forfeiting the run game in football, fast breaks in basketball, runners in scoring position in baseball.

The Knights actually scored a power-play goal Wednesday via a Chandler Stephenson deflection from the slot. Not sure if it’s a sign of things to come, but the Knights won’t argue with any success on the man advantage.

It was a huge win. A must-win. An impressive win.

And in the end, Thompson earned the victory in goal.

I assume that means he will start against San Jose on Sunday. Maybe. Probably.

“We’re going to enjoy this game tonight, and you can ask me that three of the next four days before we play again,” DeBoer said. ”We’ll just go from there. Logan came off the bench and did a hell of a job. He’s done that all year for us. We’ll enjoy the win tonight.”

Translation: Who the heck knows.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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