There is no longer controversy or baggage hanging over every Marc-Andre Fleury performance. No longer does Fleury have to deal with ardent detractors for whom no action is able to erase past struggles. Fleury no longer has a goalie controversy and potential to lose his starting job. Marc-Andre Fleury is now freely able to play hockey, and he is lighting up Vegas like an unquestioned star goalie.
Fleury, 32, secured his first NHL career win without a Penguins sweater, Friday night at Dallas. Against the high scoring Dallas Stars, Fleury stopped 45 of 46 shots. VGK won 2-1, and former Penguins winger James Neal scored a pair of goals.
Fleury was the number one star and at his acrobatic, shot-anticipating best:
It sounds a little awkward not hearing Bob Errey praise Fleury, doesn’t it?
24 hours later, Fleury completed the Vegas Golden Knights weekend sweep by stopping 27 of 28 shots against the
Phoenix Arizona Coyotes. Vegas won in overtime, 2-1. Fleury earned the first two wins of Vegas’ franchise history and did so in classic Fleury style.
In the first two games, Fleury has a ridiculous 0.98 goals against average and .973 save percentage.
Fleury is no longer the smiley kid, who was the first overall pick in 2003. He no longer trades barbs with the chummy team reporter. He doesn’t have the same locker room buddies with whom he grew up and who will always know him as the happy go-lucky jokester. His presence now exudes leadership, even as his trademark smile makes occasional appearances in his media scrums.
Fleury’s game has always been athletic. As he matured, his ability to read the game evolved– Reactions became pro-active positioning. He quieted his game and over-reacted less. He stayed between the pipes. A psychologist taught him how to handle the pressures of the game and maximize his ability in the biggest moments.
VGK claimed former Bruins first-round pick, goalie Malcolm Subban off waivers last week. It’s hard to imagine a better mentor than Fleury. Perhaps Fleury can help Subban reach his potential, too.
Fleury has a clean sheet of ice in Vegas. His team is unlikely to make the playoffs, but that won’t dampen enthusiasm for Las Vegas’ first major professional sports team. Any team achievement will be seen as a bonus. Each sparkling Fleury performance will be seen as a novelty and appreciated.
The expectations are wildly different than Fleury has experienced at any point in his career. Without the turmoil of fighting for playing time, angry negativity from fans, or even the specter of the past hanging above Fleury, he has the chance to grow into his greatest version. Unfettered.
He won two playoff series for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016. In fact, he stole the Second Round series against Washington.
Perhaps he can steal a season for Vegas, too.
It was a huge weekend for Pittsburgh Hockey Now. Our television show debuted on the CW, Saturday. Thank you to everyone who watched, recorded and commented.
Sure, there were some rough edges. Due to conditions beyond the control of PHN or our previous cohosts, poor Bob Healy was pressed into co-hosting duty only a few hours before we were set to record. I talked a little (a lot) more than our “outline” scheduled, but Bob handled me like a pro!
I can’t wait to share the outline of show #2. It’s already written in my head. Needless to say–it’s going to be a lot of fun and we’re going to do a couple hockey stories you will want to see. Our mission is to bring the league to you, in a way other Pittsburgh media doesn’t have the time or resources to do.
You will love episode 2, which will air on the first Saturday in November. I shared the ambitious stories with our producers whose simultaneous response was, “Wow.”
It’s an expensive venture, so your support is appreciated! And, oh by the way, if you work for a company which likes to do TV advertising… get in contact with @pghhockeyNOW on twitter or email me– firstname.lastname@example.org