Put those stereotypes aside, though, because the person who best represents what the playoffs are – persistence against the headwind of relentless challenges – isn’t a mustache warrior. Even at 36, Marc-André Fleury retains a cup as smooth as the flat side of a washer. And as the Vegas Golden Knights scorer prepares to kick off his 145th postseason game on Friday – a winner’s affair against the Minnesota Wild – he does so knowing that it doesn’t matter who his opponent or the game itself is. throws at him, there can be no more curved balls that he has not seen.
I look at Fleury, I see the sincerity of a golden retriever who just wants to spread love within his family, and I wonder how an easy-to-love goalie ended up in so many hockey situations that required just a hug.
Seriously, the Hockey Gods have been shooting arrows at this guy’s flashy armor for decades now. Almost 20 years ago, the 2004 World Junior Championships were settled by Fleury’s clearance attempt which bounced off teammate Braydon Coburn and into the Canadian net, giving the USA team their first ever medal. gold. A year earlier, Fleury was mad at the WJC before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NHL Draft, but Canada lost a one-goal final to the Russians at home.
Two of her best NHL playoff seasons were in 2008 and 2017. In the first year, Fleury posted a .933 save percentage and 1.97 goals against average, but when even experienced grief when the Penguins lost to Detroit in the Cup final. In the last playoffs, Fleury played 15 games – including a second-round, Game 7 shutout against the Washington Capitals – recorded a .924 save percentage, but still gave the net to Matt Murray. when the guy who had supplanted him as Pittsburgh’s No.1 was ready to come back in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It was the same year Fleury gave up her no-move clause so she could say goodbye to tearful Steeltown and start again in Vegas. Two years after taking the “Golden Misfits” to the 2018 Finals in their first season of existence, Fleury was pulled out of the bubble playoff trough by acquiring Robin Lehner at the 2020 trade deadline.
After enduring an offseason where he heard that his $ 7 million cap made him untouched, Fleury collapsed into a fetal position and begged for mercy. I laugh. He used the opening created by Lehner’s recovery from shoulder surgery to deliver a Vezina-caliber season in which he finished third in wins (26) and shutouts (six), while posting the sixth-best five-on-five save percentage (.929) and dangerous save percentage (.853) in the league among goaltenders with 1,000 minutes of action. In those playoffs, he allowed Minny two goals or less in four of six outings.
If you can believe it, the Sorel, Que. Native has absorbed the blows and got the ball rolling since his home province’s famous pee-wee tournament in Quebec. Fleury’s AA team in Longueuil won the event, but – after sharing time with his teenage comrade – he didn’t get the tap for the final and lived his team’s championship game from the bench. .
It’s not like all the bad things that happened to Fleury can be attributed to the sick sense of humor of fate. From 2010 to 2017, his .903 playoff save percentage was the worst score among the 14 puck saves who appeared in at least 35 games during that span. To her credit, however, Fleury has turned the boat around and from 2017 to those 2021 playoffs, her mark of .923 is better than all but two goaltenders (Tuukka Rask and, ahem, Lehner are at .924) who are have played at least 20 games. in these five post-season sessions.
If you only focus on the laid back manner of “Flower” you run the risk of underestimating her courage. What makes Fleury a weed you just can’t kill – and a guy teammates universally adore – is the competitive spirit and moxie simmering just below the soft surface. When he was a major junior player for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Fleury was invited by coach Pascal Vincent to take a seat one evening. Vincent also tasked Fleury with plotting the scoring chances for both his own team and the opponents. When Fleury handed in his homework, all Vincent saw was a note that said, “I’m a goalie, not a statistician.
Vincent, now AHL’s Manitoba Moose coach, recalled the fallout in a story I wrote for Hockey news when Fleury was starting to establish himself in the NHL. “I wasn’t very happy to see that, but on the other hand, I could see he had a lot of character,” he said. “So of course he was brought into my office, the office and we had a few words – well he listened to the few words I had to say – but when he left [the other coaches and I] looked at each other and I remember saying, “This kid is for real. He wants to play, maybe he made a mistake there, but he wants to play.
This is as true today as it was then. Fleury never stopped fighting for the net, just like he never gave up a puck. His signature play of the 2009 Cup Final – diving head first into his blocker’s side to repel Nick Lidstrom’s attempt and maintain a one-goal lead in the dying seconds of Game 7 – captures Fleury’s mind perfectly. .
Thank goodness he had this moment. Considering everything thrown at her, Fleury probably deserves another like this.