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The Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from the Stanley Cup Final with an 8-0 thrashing of the New York Islanders Monday night as the Lightning look primed to repeat as Cup champions. Maybe the resilient Islanders force a game 7 but what a daunting challenge it is for anyone to beat that Lightning team four out of seven times and as expected that’s playing out again this postseason. In a salary cap era, it is something that since the 2008-2009 season, we could now have four multiple Cup Winners during that span with Chicago (3X), Pittsburgh (3X), Los Angeles (2X) and possibly Tampa Bay twice.
Not to mention the possibility of two separate back-to-back winners in five seasons if Tampa Bay does repeat.
The most fascinating storyline in the conference finals, though, is on the other side with the Vegas Golden Knights and now the goaltending situation where the franchise icon and 2021 Vezina Trophy Finalist (Conn Smythe Contender) might have lost his starting job with one puck handling mistake.
Has it really happened to Marc Andre Fleury again, ala, the 2017 Conference Finals where he was jettisoned to the bench for start of Game 4 of that series despite a + .920 save percentage in the 2017 postseason. We know how that story went. Once Mike Sullivan went back to his guy in Matt Murray, he was never going back to Fleury barring injury and the rest is history as the Penguins went on to repeat.
Is Peter Deboer taking the same route after Lehner’s strong Game 4 performance, where this is indeed Lehner’s series now, or were his words afterwards factual in that not starting Fleury was more about a one game rest for a 36 year old goaltender than the Game 3 gaffe?
This isn’t some Pittsburgh bias, but one thing that should be on the table for Deboer and his staff is using them both to close out the series.
Go with Fleury for Game 5 at home and have Lehner ready to go for Game 6 on the road.
— Whether the Golden Knights go back to Fleury or not this postseason, his future in Vegas will continue to be a hot subject in these circles due to the 36 year old entering the final year of his contract and Vegas up against the cap in having Lehner under control for four more years.
League sources continue to contend that Penguins GM Ron Hextall is not as infatuated in trying to reacquire Fleury as former Penguins GM Jim Rutherford was and the likes of Team President David Morehouse has been in wanting Fleury to finish his career in Pittsburgh.
Sources say Rutherford had told close confidants he believed at one point last fall he had a deal for Fleury with Vegas management agreed upon that was going to be a complicated four team deal, but that Golden Knights owner Bill Foley squashed Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
— Some Pittsburgh connections to the final stages of Seattle Kraken’s coaching search.
Rick Tocchet, as expected, is a significant contender for the job and a top finalist.
The surprise contender in all of this, former Penguins assistant Tony Granato who has emerged as a very strong candidate. Those in Tocchet’s inner circle have sensed over the last week that Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"