The NHL announced the finalists for the Vezina Trophy, recognizing the top goaltender in the league for the season.
Two of the three finalists will oppose each other Wednesday night when the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche meet in Game 2 of their second-round series in Denver. Colorado is looking to take a 2-0 lead in the series after winning the opener, 7-1.
Marc-Andre Fleury, the Knights’ top goaltender and one of the Vezina finalists, didn’t play in that rout. Vegas head coach Pete DeBoer opted to rest the 36-year-old veteran after a tough seven-game, first-round series against the Minnesota Wild.
It is almost certain Fleury will be in net Wednesday night against Philipp Grubauer, the Avalanche’s Vezina finalist.
Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is the third finalist.
DeBoer defended his decision to start Robin Lehner on Sunday night instead of Fleury.
“There was a lot of rationale for it. I wouldn’t change the decision,” DeBoer said after Sunday’s game. “The game wasn’t about Robin Lehner. Obviously we didn’t play well in front of him.”
But the Knights did play physical, and at some points too physical in retaliation to a hit by Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves on Mattias Janmark in the first period. Janmark left the game following the borderline hit and his status for Game 2 has not been announced.
Graves took a couple of hard hits after that but then was taken down by Vegas’ Ryan Reaves in front of Colorado’s net in the third period. The league handed Reaves a two-game suspension for his actions.
“He doesn’t really cross the line too many times. I thought he did a little bit with Gravy there,” Grubauer said of Reaves. “He didn’t like the Gravy hit on Janmark. I get that he’s trying to send a message. Player Safety took care of it and that’s all I can say about it.”
Graves should be fine for Wednesday, but he might be the least of concern for Vegas. The Avalanche’s top line of Nathan MacKinnon (two goals, one assist), captain Gabriel Landeskog (two goals, one assist) and Mikko Rantanen (one goal, one assist) were dominant in Game 1 and combined for 14 of Colorado’s 37 shots on goal.
The Knights acknowledged they need to play better against the trio.
“We gave their skill players a little too much respect, a little too much room and good players are going to make plays in that space,” defenseman Nick Holden said.
Despite the lopsided score Vegas isn’t worried about a repeat Wednesday night.
“We looked at it and what didn’t work for us, and there were a lot of things that didn’t work for us,” DeBoer said. “As a group, we didn’t do enough things well enough for long enough in order to deserve to win. It’s pretty easy to recognize that. We got what we deserved. I know we’ll bounce back.”
The Avalanche said they will be ready for a different and more rested Vegas team on Wednesday, and they’re not relaxing after an easy victory in Game 1.
“It’s a race to four (wins),” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “That’s one, and it’s great, and we loved the way our team played and now our mission is to follow that up with a very similar game to the one we played.”
–Field Level Media