Fleury Forever

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

And that seems to be the case when it comes to Marc-Andre Fleury.

Next week, the 32 year old will be selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL expansion draft.

It’s important to remember that Fleury didn’t have to go there.

Before the emergence of Matt Murray, Jim Rutherford made a commitment to number 29.

In November 2014, Fleury signed a four-year deal that included a modified no trade clause.

Fleury could’ve easily nixed any move to Vegas and forced the Penguins to buy out his contract.

I’d bet that never even crossed his mind.

Any of the Penguins will tell you, Marc-Andre Fleury is the best teammate they’ve ever had.

The Penguins won’t have any trouble replacing Fleury’s on-ice performance.

Matt Murray is already one of the very best goalies in the league.

But they’ll never be able to replicate what Marc-Andre Fleury brought to the team.

He was the prankster who always kept the mood light when things were tough.

He was the heartbeat in the locker room.

He was the first pillar of the core that would start this Penguins dynasty.

He was truly one of the best players to ever put on a Penguins uniform.

It’s funny.

We all knew that this would be Fleury’s final season as a Penguin.

But it’s still going to hit just as hard when it becomes official.

It’s one of those tricky things in life that you can spend a year preparing for, but it doesn’t become real until it happens.

For 13 seasons, Marc-Andre Fleury gave his heart and soul to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

375-216-68  .912 SV%  2.58 GAA.

He sits first all-time in Penguins history in the following categories:

Games played as goalie (691)

Wins (375)

Save percentage (.912)

Goals against average (.258)

Shutouts (44)

Fleury owns every major individual goalie record in franchise history.

He’s also been a major part of all three Stanley Cups.

Despite popular belief, the Penguins don’t win any of those championships without him.

In 2009, his contributions were obvious.

He started all 24 playoff games and earned all 16 wins en route to the Cup.

Who could forget those signature saves on Alex Ovechkin and Nick Lidstrom?

In 2016, Fleury’s role is often overlooked.

Sure, Matt Murray stole the show when the playoffs rolled around.

But the Penguins would’ve never earned a postseason berth without the Flower.

Under Mike Johnston, the Penguins were a bad, bad team.

With a sparkling .921 SV%, Fleury kept the Penguins in the playoff hunt.

If he doesn’t play the way he did before Sullivan came along, the Penguins aren’t able to recover and squeak into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Fleury also embraced Matt Murray’s emergence in that playoffs.

He could’ve been bitter that he wasn’t given his starting job back after injury.

He could’ve left Murray to fend for himself.

He didn’t.

If there’s one thing you should know about Marc-Andre Fleury, it’s that he loves the Pittsburgh Penguins more than anything.

His role came secondary to the team’s success.

The Penguins don’t win the Cup last year without Fleury’s selflessness. Believe that.

Finally, this season.

A backup for most of the year, that seemed to be how Fleury would end his tenure as a Penguin.

Then, Matt Murray went down with an injury before the very first playoff game.

This led to one of the most symbolic championship runs in sports history.

Fleury dazzled in the first game against Columbus.

It was vintage MAF.

Diving out of his net to poke check the puck away.

Touting his athleticism through unorthodox saves that most goalies can only dream about.

That first game was a microcosm of the next two rounds.

As Murray’s injury lingered, Fleury showed up when his team needed him most.

One last time.

He led the team past Columbus in only five games.

But the next series is where his best work came.

The Penguins probably didn’t deserve to win a single one of the first six games against Washington.

Marc-Andre Fleury single-handedly willed the Penguins past the Capitals.

It was like something out of a feel-good Hollywood film.

Fleury just wouldn’t let his team lose.

 

He put the Penguins on his back as he had so many times before.

Fleury would win one game against Ottawa before Murray returned from injury.

He got the Penguins nine of their 16 wins.

Matt Murray cleaned up the other seven.

It just feels right that things played out the way they did.

Marc-Andre Fleury, the original franchise goalie, carries the team halfway to the Cup.

Matt Murray, Fleury’s successor and the future of the franchise, takes them the rest of the way.

I wish Fleury didn’t ever have to wear another uniform.

And I’m sure he feels the same way.

But back in February, Fleury solidified himself as a Penguins legend.

He could’ve asked to move on to somewhere he could start.

Instead, he waived his no movement clause for the upcoming expansion draft, so that the Penguins could keep him aboard for one last ride.

A ride that would’ve been stopped short without him.

I certainly wasn’t happy that Matt Murray couldn’t play the beginning of the playoffs.

But in hindsight, it was exactly what was supposed to happen.

Fleury knows this is Murray’s team now.

He doesn’t want to play for any other city, but one last time he’ll put the team before himself.

Come Wednesday, Marc-Andre Fleury will officially be a Vegas Golden Knight.

But unofficially, he’ll always be a Pittsburgh Penguin.

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