Agent for Vegas goalie Fleury raises questions with tweet

Sports

Vegas Golden Knights’ Brayden McNabb (3) and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) celebrate the win over the Chicago Blackhawks in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Peter DeBoer didn’t name his starting goaltender for Game 1 of the Vegas Golden Knights’ second-round series against the Vancouver Canucks.

A tweet Saturday by Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent may have given that information away, and it certainly stirred up questions in the middle of the playoffs.

Agent Allan Walsh posted to Twitter an illustration of Fleury in full uniform in net being impaled by a sword with “DeBoer” on it.

DeBoer has said it’s “a great luxury” to have two starting goalies and would figure out to rotate them. Lehner has gotten the majority of the action, going 5-1 with a 2.04 goals-against average and .904 save percentage, while Fleury is 2-0 with a 2.50 GAA and .886 save percentage.

Judging by the sentiment of Walsh’s tweet, Lehner could be in net Sunday night in the Vegas-Vancouver series opener (10:30 p.m. EDT, NBC Sports Network).

Fleury is 12-2-2 against the Canucks and hasn’t lost to them since 2006. Asked Friday before the Golden Knights knew if the Canucks or St. Louis Blues would be there opponent, but not directly about Fleury, DeBoer said, “I don’t think it probably changes our roster decisions or our line makeups, at least not for Game 1.”

A team spokesman confirmed Saturday night the Golden Knights are aware of Walsh’s tweet. Walsh did not respond to a message seeking further comment.

Fleury won the Stanley Cup three times with Pittsburgh — twice as part of a tandem with Matt Murray — and led Vegas to the 2018 final. The 35-year-old was the starter until the Golden Knights traded for Lehner at the deadline in February.

General manager Kelly McCrimmon said the team spoke with Fleury the day of the trade and with Lehner upon his arrival to ensure them of the arrangement.

“We did not feel that we had enough support behind Marc-Andre, so that was the motivation behind the deal,” McCrimmon said recently. “I think there’s a good relationship between both goaltenders and each is available for the same reason: to try to help us win.”

Fleury remains with the Western Conference top-seeded Golden Knights in the Edmonton bubble. Games 5 and 6 of this series, if necessary, are scheduled on back-to-back days and would lend themselves to splitting the duties in net.

That won’t happen for Vancouver, which has ridden Jacob Markstrom to seven wins in 10 games. The 30-year-old Swede has been among the best goalies in the playoffs with a .929 save percentage.

“He’s a great example of, one, how long it takes goaltenders to develop and how quickly people can give up on guys,” said DeBoer, who coached the Florida Panthers when they drafted Markstrom in 2008 and when he saw his first NHL action a few years later. “The fact that he’s persevered and turned himself into one of the best goaltenders in the world and how long it took for him to do that, I give a ton of credit to him because that path hasn’t been easy.”

BOSTON BRUINS VS. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING, Game 1 (8 p.m., NBCSN)

Bruce Cassidy figured his Boston Bruins would run into the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019 playoffs with each team looking like a Stanley Cup contender. Columbus swept Tampa Bay in stunning fashion in the first round, delaying a rematch between the Atlantic Division’s perennially two best teams.

That’s a reality again now, in the second round two years after the Lightning eliminated the Bruins in five games.

“We’ve grown since then,” Cassidy said. “I think we’re a better team. I believe I’ve had more playoff experience. Now it’s going to be two very evenly matched teams going at it. Each team’s probably not 100 percent healthy but for the most part have strong lineups and are ready to go.”

Tampa Bay is still without Steven Stamkos, and coach Jon Cooper again bristled at questions about his injured captain, who is “not available right now.” Stamkos in July aggravated a core muscle injury that he had surgery on in March and hasn’t played since February.

But the Lightning have found a groove without him, beating the Blue Jackets in five to get revenge for last year. They’re looking forward to a measuring stick series against Boston.

“It’s two teams that play with a lot of pride and obviously guys that have been on each other’s teams for quite a while and faced off against each other many times,” Tampa Bay defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “You’re familiar with the style that they play, and the intensity you know is going to be there for sure right from the start.”

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