Good Knight: Marc-Andre Fleury’s influence felt on, off ice for Vegas
LAS VEGAS — Marc-Andre Fleury has been a member of the Vegas Golden Knights for less than six months.
Because of a concussion that kept him on the sidelines for two of those months, he only has played five games all season coming into a marquee matchup with the Penguins late Thursday night.
Yet as the Golden Knights prepared for the game, a clear theme emerged from the locker room at their practice facility in the Vegas suburbs.
His teammates wanted to win this game for Fleury.
“I think that’s one of the strengths of this team, the way the guys have come together and the chemistry we’ve built from the start of the season, from camp,” Fleury said. “Every night it feels like somebody’s (facing their old team), and we always want to do well for that guy. It’s really nice to hear guys say that.”
The fact his teammates already care a great deal for Fleury despite knowing him for a relatively short time proves a couple of things.
First, as Pittsburghers are well aware, Fleury has an infectious personality. He’s almost impossible to dislike.
Second, the Golden Knights made the right move in selecting Fleury in last June’s expansion draft. He has been a perfect fit in pretty much every way possible.
On the ice, despite having turned 33 last month, he’s still at the top of his game.
The raw numbers show that. He’s 3-1-1 with a 2.35 goals-against average and .930 save percentage so far.
“I’m not surprised,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “Obviously, we know the type of goaltender he was. I’m not surprised about their success and his success personally.”
Fleury has been so good — making 45 saves in a 2-1 season-opening win over Dallas, for example — that teammate David Perron said the Golden Knights have to prove they are not leaning on him too much.
“The challenge for us is to play the same way we’ve been playing and not expect him to bail us out every night,” Perron said. “The first couple games we played this year were like that. With Dallas, the first game, he had to stand on his head the whole game for us to have a chance at winning.
“We want to do more than that. We want to show we’re more than a goalie, I guess, in the end. At the same time, we’re extremely fortunate to have him.”
Fleury has been a fit with Vegas for reasons that go beyond his save percentage, too.
As a new team cobbled together via an expansion draft, the Golden Knights had to make sure they didn’t have communication breakdowns early this season.
Communication is the jocular Fleury’s specialty.
“He’s talking to guys on the ice,” Perron said. “What’s impressive for me is he’s so aware of who’s out there with him. Like if I make a good defensive play, he’s going to basically talk to me in French, and if it’s someone else, (in English). He’s very aware out there. He’s not just talking to anybody. He knows who he’s talking to. He’s involved in the play.”
As Matt Murray readily would attest, Fleury also is known as a positive veteran influence on his team’s younger netminders.
That attribute has been put to the test during his time in Vegas. Because of injuries, the Golden Knights already have used five goalies this season, some with precious little NHL experience.
It wouldn’t be fair to give Fleury credit for that success, especially because of his injury absence, but having him around surely didn’t hurt.
“We really did a good job to keep our season alive without him,” Perron said. “We want to keep adding with him.”