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Insider Only Marc Andre Fleury’s Return to Pittsburgh & a Stanley Cup Preview Tonight?

Marc Andre Fleury makes his return to Pittsburgh tonight with the Western Conference leading Vegas Golden Knights in town.

It’s going to be an emotional night for Fleury who you can bet wants to put on a show.

If Derrick Pouliot got a tribute video from the organization, I think there’s a chance we’ll see a Fleury tribute video tonight…….

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What an ovation it’s going to be.

Penguins All-Time Wins Leaders
1. Marc-Andre Fleury – 375
2. Tom Barrasso – 226
3. Ken Wregget – 104
4. Denis Herron – 88
5. J.S. Aubin – 63
6. Matthew Murray – 58
7. Les Binkley – 58
8. Greg Millen – 57
9. Roberto Romano – 46
10. Johan Hedberg – 46

The all-time Penguins leader in wins, Fleury’s popularity skyrocketed in his final season as a Penguin in how he handled the situation of no longer being the No. 1 goaltender and got a banged up Penguins team missing Kris Letang and their starting goaltender to the third round.

If you breakdown Fleury’s greatest moments during his Penguins career, his performance in Game 7 against the Capitals last spring is right up there as one of the best based on the circumstances, pressure situation.

Mike Sullivan said it best yesterday when discussing Fleury:

“Marc was such a professional in how he handled the whole thing,” said Sullivan. “I know I can speak for myself, and tell you how appreciative I am of how professional he was. There were a couple tough conversations and those conversations might’ve been the hardest I’ve had as a coach. He’s just a great player. He’s a great person and he’s a great teammate.”

Starting with Fleury’s benching during the 2013 playoffs to Murray supplanting him as the No. 1 goaltender three years later, it really is something how Fleury never reached a boiling point and demanded a trade.

Fleury’s love of the Logo, Pittsburgh and his teammates saw him just show up to work everyday as the same person he always is, whether he was the starter or not. Fleury was so popular in that room and how we never saw a locker room become divided or such is also a testament to Fleury the person in how he handled everything.

Fleury’s run as a Penguin is a fascinating one when you look back, especially the years after the first Cup. There was a lot of up’s but also some down’s.

His popularity and how important he was in the room might have prolonged his Penguins career a bit, and let’s be honest the media coverage from an on-ice standpoint was sometimes more favorable than it should have been towards Fleury because of how great a person he is and engaging he is with the media.

If Fleury had Tom Barrasso’s personality, would the Vegas Golden Knight’s had selected him and made him the early face of their franchise?

Likely not.

Being a great role model, teammate is what makes Fleury so unique.

The lack of trade market for Fleury last season was understandable because of the salary/age and there are comparable goaltenders at lesser contracts on the market. The Penguins didn’t receive one offer from the start of last season through the trade deadline.

But, maybe Fleury should have been more valued from certain teams in the goaltending market because of other factors he brings to the table.

I think Carolina missed a golden opportunity to bring Fleury into their room and put him behind that young group for the next several seasons. Looking back the Islanders should have also been all-in on Fleury. Fleury has a ton of experience of forwards/D leaving him out to dry. That would have been a natural fit and selling John Tavares to stay would have been a tad easier if you had something resembling a capable veteran goaltender.

At the end of the day Fleury didn’t get the story book ending of being the winning goaltender in the Stanley Cup last June, but it was certainly close to one in how he elevated his play last post-season and everybody has won with how things played out.

Not to mention Fleury’s legend in Pittsburgh has grown since last April.

Once Fleury left Pittsburgh he wanted to go to a place he could stay long-term and not bounce around.

In Vegas, Fleury was initially always looked at as a potential trade piece in a year or so, but that certainly isn’t the case now where Vegas is not a normal expansion team.

Fleury has played great this season for Vegas with a 1.84 GAA and .939 SV% in 21 games. With how popular Fleury is already in Vegas, a major presence in the local community as Fleury and his wife do great things with the youth and local charities, it will be a shock if he doesn’t get somewhere around a two-three year extension this summer, even though he would be 35 when the extension (2019-2020) kicks in.


STANLEY CUP PREVIEW?

While all of the buzz is on Marc Andre Fleury’s return, tonight could also be a Stanley Cup Preview, as crazy as it might sound.

I doubt it but it certainly could happen.

You breakdown the Golden Knights roster and this shouldn’t be the case, but Vegas has put enough on tape where they are a serious contender in the West.

They lead the West with 74 points and the playoffs are obviously a near lock. Vegas could go 9-19-2 over their final 30 games and still hit the 94 point mark (playoff odds of over 50%). That’s how good they have been.

This is a team that’s four lines deep, plays a relentless puck pursuit game and what is special with them is how much this group seems to love to play for each other and their coach.

Everything Vegas does is still a long-term view as it should be but this is different.

They should be looking to add and really going for it. I think George McPhee owes it to this group.

Not mortgaging first round picks but certainly diving in the rental market a bit to add to the team where you don’t lose sleep in trading a second or third rounder.

This team is unique in how systematically good they are under Gerard Gallant.

Reasons to also add is that the Pacific Division is down this season.

San Jose is not the same team from two years ago and the same with the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.

There’s a real opportunity for Vegas to get through the first two rounds.

Some scouts I hear from believe Vegas will finally get exposed early in the playoffs during a seven game series because they lack those key ingredients of a franchise type center/defenseman, but in the Pacific there’s no gauntlet like the Central Division where the Predators, Blues and Jets are scary good and have to go through each other. Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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