It seems like the only player that can surprise Marc-Andre Fleury might be Marc-Andre Fleury.
When you win 474 games in the NHL, it almost comes naturally.
Fleury made 34 saves Monday, including a couple of highlight-reel worthy stops, to propel the Vegas Golden Knights to a 3-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.
“It’s a team game, and the guys have done a great job blocking shots and not giving them too much,” Fleury said. “Obviously it’s a great effort by the guys in front of me.”
That quote was mainly about the penalty kill, but it’s just as potent at 5-on-5. The Golden Knights blocked 17 shots Monday and were out-attempted 57-45.
It’s another testament to how good Fleury has been.
Two of Fleury’s league-leading three shutouts came in this four-game set against the Avalanche. Barring catastrophic happenings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this will be a second-round matchup more likely than not.
Fresh off back-to-back 3-2 losses to Colorado, coach Pete DeBoer put the lines in the blender. Alex Tuch was moved to the top line and scored two goals, and Jonathan Marchessault moved to the third line and scored his fifth goal in nine games.
Fleury made his eighth consecutive start, seventh with Robin Lehner rehabbing from an upper-body injury. No one has made more starts than Fleury since Feb. 9 (7), and no one has a lower goals-against average (1.73) and a higher save percentage (.941) than the 36-year-old three-time Stanley Cup champion.
Fleury’s next victory will be his 100th with the Golden Knights. It’s crazy to think he could be any better than the expansion season, but he’s rivaling that with this hot start to this season
“I honestly think the first year, he was impeccable,” Marchessault said. “That’s as good I’ve seen him. He’s been unbelievable. He’s been a great leader for everybody. We want to battle for him because he battles for us. It’s been a treat to see him do so well.”
Performing in big games has been the norm since Fleury was picked by Vegas in the expansion draft. Monday was another example of that, shutting down the potent Colorado offense in the most important game this season.
The Golden Knights leave Denver with a much-needed split and maintain first place in the West Division. Their goaltender was at the forefront of that yet again.
Now to the fun stuff.
Think of this as difficulty levels in a video game. Here’s easy, which isn’t as close to easy as one would think it would be.
Now, here’s medium with borderline hard, because why in the world is Fleury channeling his inner infielder and making a play on the ground ball? The man DOES NOT HAVE HIS STICK WHILE DIVING TO MAKE THE STOP.
Here’s the expert difficulty, which might not be, because this is the 3,000th time Fleury has made a double-pad stack in his career. But given this came in a 0-0 game, the degree of difficulty amplifies.
“I think maybe because I was deeper I could get there a little quicker and not have to cover as much distance to get there,” Fleury said. “It gave me a little more time to react and throw the pad in the air.”
Speaking of video game difficulty, we need to talk about this.
It’d be easy to say this is video game-like stuff, but when’s the last time your goalie in NHL 21 could actually do this against the AI?
It was this kind of night for Fleury, who once again did what he needed to do, and then some. He continues to put on a show, but he’s doing it in winning ways.
“It’s as good as I’ve seen him play,” DeBoer said. “For me, he’s been dialed in right since training camp. He’s consistently been our best player.”