By: Nick Pooler
Marc-Andre Fleury was taken in the 1st round of the 2003 NHL draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was unknown how good he was going to be but it was well-known of the full potential that he had. He came into a team that was a perennial failure in the Pittsburgh Penguins and Fleury’s first year was one he would want to forget. He played in 21 games and started in 20 of them. He had a record of 4-14-2. His goals against average was a 3.44, and he boasted a career low save percentage of .896%.
The Penguins stuck with him however. And after his second year, they reconsidered if he should still be their goalie. In his first two years combined he had a record of 17-41-8. He did not seem promising. It was from that point where Fleury’s career changed for the better and his numbers started to turn around. His Penguins made the playoffs for the first time in Fleury’s career in the 2006-07 season. Fleury has been in the postseason every year since then.
In 123 games started in the playoffs, Fleury owns a winning record of 70-53 with a playoff career save percentage of .912%. Fleury has accounted for some of the most amazing and historic saves we have seen in the past decade especially come playoff time. In 2009, he led the Penguins to their first Stanley Cup since 1991, and their 3rd overall. He didn’t stop there. The Penguins remained a top team in the East and contended every year since. The Penguins won their 4th title in 2016 but this time without Fleury’s help. That year, Fleury dealt with concussion symptoms come playoff time. In the regular season, he was lights out going 35-17-6 with 5 shutouts. But come playoff time, you can’t move back-and-forth between goalies so they went with the hot hand Matt Murray while Fleury recovered.
That year, Murray went 15-6 with a save percentage of .923% and led the Penguins to their title. It made Penguins fans wonder the status of Fleury and the team. To relate it to right now, it is not as drastic but it is just like the Nick Foles, Carson Wentz situation. Murray comes in and plays lights out but you also still have one of the games best on your roster so which one will start and which one will go or will both stay?
The next year, Fleury played in 38 games and started 34 games for Pittsburgh going 18-10-7. On the other end, Murray was unstoppable. He started 47 games while playing in 49. Going for a record of 32-10-4 and winning the Calder Memorial Trophy. This was the turning point for Fleury and the Penguins although in the playoffs Fleury saw more ice time then Murray. Fleury started 15 games and Murray started 10. Murray went 7-3 and Fleury went 9-6. Oh yeah, not to mention they combined to win the franchises 5th Stanley Cup and 2nd in back-to-back years.
After this season, an expansion team was added to the NHL. The Vegas Golden Knights. It was Fleury’s name who got called upon to head on over and be the face of the franchise leaving Murray the primary goalie for the Penguins. In his first year, he shocked the world. He went 29-13-4 and led the Golden Knights to the playoffs in their inaugural year. Including a save percentage of .924%. In the playoffs, he has done things no one has ever even imagined. He is 8-2 in 10 games only giving up 17 goals in those ten games. That makes his goals against average at 1.53 and his save percentage at .951% along with 4 shutouts in ten games. Almost half of his playoff games as a Golden Knight have been shutouts. They swept the Kings 4-0 in the first round and beat the Sharks 4-2 in the second round. They now await the winner of the Jets/Predators series.
As an NHL fan, who would not want to see the Golden Knights in the NHL finals facing off against the Pittsburgh Penguins? What better way than to see Fleury and Murray go head-to-head to clear up any argument ever had about which one should be in Pittsburgh. The Penguins find themselves in game 6 down 3-2 to the Capitals. If they can turn it around and everything works out for both teams, your going to witness a great Stanley Cup for the ages as the Penguins would try to three-peat. Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the best goalies of my time and especially turns it on in the playoffs. At 33 years old, I am looking forward to seeing what else he can do in his amazing career. Even better, I think Fleury might be playing the greatest hockey he has ever played before and we are all witnessing greatness.