DENVER | On one end of the ice will be Philipp Grubauer, a recently named Vezina Trophy finalist.
At the other end will be Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s up for the same award.
Now that’s quite a goaltender face-off for Game 2 on Wednesday in a second-round series between Colorado and Vegas.
Grubauer, the Avalanche netminder who made 24 saves during a 7-1 win in Game 1, and Fleury, his Vegas rival who didn’t play in the series opener, were named two of the finalists Tuesday for an award that goes to the league’s top goaltender. The other nominee is Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, the 2019 winner.
“Don’t think that happens too many times,” Grubauer said of a pair of Vezina candidates meeting up in round two. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Same with a well-rested Fleury. The Golden Knights went with Robin Lehner in Game 1 to give Fleury a breather after the short turnaround from a grueling seven-game series against Minnesota in which Fleury played all seven games.
Fleury is expected to start even if coach Pete DeBoer didn’t officially declare him the starter, only saying: “It’s probably obvious what the answer is.”
“I feel bad that Robin was throw into that one, into the lions, where we didn’t have our best game there and they had their best one,” Fleury said of Game 1. “It’s not fun. But for me personally, it was good to have a few days, rest the legs a bit, take it easy.”
Grubauer has long been a fan of Fleury, who’s currently third on the all-time wins list. His 492 wins in the regular season trail only Patrick Roy (551) and Martin Brodeur (691), two of the goalies Fleury idolized growing up. Fleury, whose nickname is “Flower,” has never won a Vezina Trophy.
“He’s an unbelievable goalie,” said Grubauer, who hoisted a Stanley Cup in 2018 while with Washington. “Always watched Flower. It’s kind of fun for me to think of him down at the other end and seeing him there.”
Grubauer’s vision is focused on victories, not the Vezina. Still, the honor means a lot.
“I never thought in my life I would be part of that group, sitting on that table with Vasi and Flower,” the 29-year-old Grubauer said. “It’s not only an honor for myself but represents the organization really well.”
Grubauer is coming off a regular season in which he tied for the league lead in shutouts (seven) and was second in wins (30). He’s taken his game to another level so far in this postseason, with a 5-0 mark, 1.60 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.
“Exact personality for the guy you want in there every night,” Avalanche backup goaltender Devan Dubnyk said. “I like that he’s got a ton of tools and able to break out and do some crazy acrobatic moves if need be.”
The 36-year-old Fleury combined with Lehner to win the William M. Jennings Trophy as the goaltenders on the team that allowed the fewest goals throughout the regular season.
Fleury also ranked ranked third in the NHL in wins (26), goals-against average (1.98), save percentage (.928) and shutouts (six).
“He’s a class act. That’s probably the best way I can put it,” DeBoer said. “A true professional. A class person. Shows up every day with a smile on his face and has the most energy in the room despite the fact he’s the oldest guy in the room.”
The big thing for Fleury and the Golden Knights will be neutralizing the speed of the Avalanche, especially Colorado’s top line that features Nathan MacKinnon, captain Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. The trio combined for five goals and three assists in Game 1.
Learn anything about them watching from the bench?
“A little bit,” said Fleury, who won three Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh. “We knew who the big guys are and how quick of a team they are.”
NOTES: Vegas forward Ryan Reaves will serve the first of a two-game suspension Wednesday for his roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct on Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves. … The Avs will be without Nazem Kadri for a fourth time as he serves an eight-game suspension for his hit on St. Louis Blues defenseman Justin Faulk in a first-round series. … Vegas F Mattias Janmark is day-to-day, DeBoer said, after leaving Game 1 following a hit from Graves.
AP freelance writer W.G. Ramirez contributed to this report from Las Vegas.