Marc-Andre Fleury. Carey Price. Two of the top goaltenders in the NHL prepare to go head-to-head in a historic matchup that will determine whether it’s the Vegas Golden Knights or Montreal Canadiens which hoists the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl and moves on to the Stanley Cup Final.
Vegas Hockey Now takes a look at these two top-flight goaltenders head-to-head.
2021 NHL Playoffs
The NHL is a what have you done for me lately league, as all sports tend to be. Regardless of past performance, how a goaltender is playing right now is what matters most.
Marc-Andre Fleury is putting together one of his best playoff seasons to date. His 1.91 GAA is the lowest he’s ever posted in the playoffs. His .923 save percentage is close to the years where he’s been “on” during the playoffs, which usually spread between .924 and .927 overall. Fleury is a major reason why the Vegas Golden Knights are past the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche, and he hasn’t looked this sharp in years.
Carey Price has also been solid for Montreal, putting up similar numbers to Fleury. He’s posted a 1.97 GAA and .935 save percentage in his eight wins, dropping only the three early in the Toronto Maple Leafs series. Toronto really tested Price and the Canadiens, but for some reason, the Winnipeg Jets fell flat after a big series win over the Edmonton Oilers and really failed to push the Canadiens let alone win a game.
Both Fleury and Price are getting help from their defenses, and both have had what I’d consider team-equivalent series (Colorado = Toronto; Winnipeg = Minnesota).
Edge: Carey Price
When you hang up the pads and they look at your career, there is one particular resume builder that stands out among the rest: The Stanley Cup. It’s not the only measuring stick, but it’s a big one.
Fleury has three Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The first was all him, while the second and third were just strange situations where if Fleury didn’t bail the Penguins out, they’d have been sent packing. But he wasn’t the starter for either of those Cups. Still, without him, Pittsburgh wouldn’t have won. Internationally, Fleury has back-to-back silver medals with Team Canada at the WJC in 2003 and 2004. He’s now fourth all-time in playoff wins with 89 and playoff games played with 157.
Price has not won a Stanley Cup, and he has not played more than 12 games in any career post-season. This is the first time he’s gotten the Canadiens past the second round. Internationally, Price has won a World Cup of Hockey (2016), Olympic Gold with Team Canada (2014), a Calder Cup in 2007 with the Hamilton Bulldogs, and a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2007 WJC.
Edge: Marc-Andre Fleury
Marc-Andre Fleury is fresh off his first Vezina Trophy nomination this season and a Jennings Trophy win with teammate Robin Lehner. Stanley Cups aside, despite a very good career Fleury hasn’t really earned much recognition in the post-season awards categories.
Carey Price has a distinguished list of awards to his credit thanks to a spectacular 2014-15 season. That year, Price was voted the winner of the Hart Trophy as league MVP, won the Ted Lindsay Award (MVP as voted by the players), the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender, and the Jennings for allowing the fewest goals-against during the regular season. An impressive season doesn’t make an entire career, but Price has always been able to put up solid numbers.
Edge: Carey Price
Hard to measure, but easy to know when they’re not there. Intangibles are the things that make up the personality of a player, coach or team. Here’s how they stack up in some of those key categories.
Marc-Andre Fleury is clearly the face of the Vegas Golden Knights franchise. But that’s not only to the fans. Fleury is a guy who unites the room and that guys love to play for. The Golden Knights room is a very good one. Go through any recent media interview and there’s an above-average level of talk about the room, the belief, the conviction this team has that they can win in any situation. Confidence in your goaltender is paramount, and Fleury inspires that in his teammates. Plus, a 36-year-old Fleury has won three Stanley Cups and knows what it takes to succeed in the playoffs. He even referenced his ability to shrug off a bad goal is much better now than it used to be. That helps the team to do the same thing. It’s ok to be frustrated in the moment, but you have to let it go quickly because the game keeps right on going. Vegas has done an excellent job of that.
Carey Price is a quiet guy. He goes out, plays well, and rarely loses his cool. In fact, I can’t really think of a time where I watched him lose his mind because of a bad goal or other situation. The flipside of that is sometimes I want to grab his wrist and check for a pulse. It doesn’t make him a bad guy or someone you don’t want on your team. He’s just not where the rally starts unless it’s by example.
Edge: Marc-Andre Fleury
There have been times when Fleury has wandered out to play the puck these playoffs and it’s turned into a real adventure. Sometimes it turns into a Grade A scoring chance for the opposition. Occasionally it could force his team to commit a penalty to keep the puck out of the net. For the most part, if Fleury stays home things are fine. Just stop it and tee it up kind of stuff. But when he wanders you have to hold your breath.
Price isn’t the second coming of Martin Brodeur. He’s not bad at moving the puck, but it’s definitely not a calling card. Like Fleury, you just want a lack of mistakes and turnovers. Keep it simple, stupid.
There are plenty of ways to evaluate goaltenders, this is just the tip of the iceberg. But no position is more important on a night in, night out basis to his team. In the end, I actually feel like the demeanor and personality of each goalie fits his team perfectly. Price needs to be the calm, steady hand on an overachieving Canadiens team, and Marc-Andre Fleury is the absolute embodiment of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Push me to pick one? I’ll take Fleury. Who would you take?