Last season, the Vegas Golden Knights were the best story in the NHL.
They accomplished more than you could ask of an expansion team in professional sports. Heck, they were three wins away from winning the Stanley Cup!
This season has been a much different story for the Golden Knights. They have not been anywhere near as consistent as last season and because of that, currently, find themselves one point out of the second wild-card spot in the ever competitive Western Conference.
With that said, going into their tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks on December 6, they have played well enough to still be in the thick of the playoff conversation. The main reason for that, just like last season, has been the play of their 34-year-old masked man Marc-Andre Fleury.
Last year, Fleury was everything and more for this franchise. He took his team on his back from the very beginning and got them oh so close to winning a Cup in year one.
Last season, he was dynamite in going 29-13-4 with a 2.24 goals against average, a .927 save percentage and four shutouts in 46 games. Believe it or not, he put up very similar numbers in the postseason (13-7 with a 2.24 goals against average, a .927 save percentage and four shutouts) and would have easily won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs had his team won it all.
This season, though his numbers may not present themselves that way, he has been just as steady. In fact, he has been so steady that in his team’s 15 wins, he has been the winning goaltender in each of them.
As of this writing, Fleury is 15-9-1 with a 2.40 goals against average, a .912 save percentage and five shutouts. If you look at that last stat, those five shutouts are one more than he had last season and there is still a lot of time for him to add to that total.
While his numbers are not as good as they were last season, he has once again been his team’s best player. Night in and night out, he is his team’s most noticeable player as he continues to make big saves, does everything he can to help his team win hockey games, and he does all of this with a smile on his face.
He’s also the main reason why in his team has won seven of their last ten games. Fleury has won eight of his last ten games and has started to regain the elite form he played with for all of last season.
The truth of the matter is that if this team wants to get back to the postseason for the second straight year, they are going to need Fleury to be at his very best. For much of his career, he has done that and more whether it was with his former club, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and now the Golden Knights.
This is a guy who knows how to win hockey games, folks. Going into his start against the Blackhawks on December 6, Fleury has won 419 career games.
In doing so, he has won games in every which way. He’s won by being unbelievable, by being good enough, and has even won when he has not been at his absolute best.
There is still a lot of hockey left to be played, but if Fleury gets hot, as it appears he is doing right now, there is no reason why this team won’t be playing at the most important time of the year come April.
Photo: Sports Illustrated