The team rolled over the Los Angeles Kings in four quick games. San Jose gave them a six-game run, but Vegas never trailed in the series and outscored the Sharks 22-14. Winnipeg were the heavy favourites and won Game 1, but Vegas then handed the Jets their first four-game losing streak of the season at the wrong time.
The Golden Knights have been credited with their quick and exciting style of play and relentless forecheck. There is certainly much to love about these underdogs and it’s possible they still would have gotten this far with average goaltending. But in losing just three games, they for sure would not be here as fresh as they are without their No. 1 goalie.
Fleury has been the story of these playoffs, but the sheer shock about Vegas’ success has overshadowed just how good he’s been. We’re at the point now where even if the Golden Knights lose to Washington in six or seven games, Vegas’ goalie could still be named playoff MVP.
He’s won three Stanley Cups before, but this is hands down Fleury’s best post-season performance.
• He could set a new playoff record for save percentage
Fleury enters the Stanley Cup Final with a .947 save percentage that will be very difficult to maintain, but he’ll be among the all-time great performers if he can do it. With one more strong series, he could set a new record.
Of goalies who have played at least 10 games in one playoff season, Fleury’s current mark ranks third-best behind only Johnny Bower’s .949 in 1962-63 and Jacques Plante’s .950 in 1968-69.
• His saves per game ranks among the all-time best
Had Fleury lost a few more games and made Vegas’ run to the final busier, perhaps he’d also be taking a run at the post-season saves record. But because Vegas is here in just 15 games, Fleury hasn’t faced as much rubber overall as some other historically great performances, but the amount of saves he’s made per game is right up there.
The all-time saves record in a single post-season is the 798 turned aside by Tim Thomas in Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup win. That year, Thomas played in 25 post-season games, making for an average of 31.92 saves per game.
Fleury has made 478 saves in these playoffs, so he won’t pass Thomas in the sheer number he’s turned away, but his average per game could pass him. Fleury is currently averaging 31.86 saves per game, which is an even better rate than J-S Giguere put together when he won the 2003 Conn Smythe after losing in the final (31.38). The all-time best for a Cup finalist is the 33.14 average saves per game Olaf Kolzig stopped for Washington the last time they made it this far in 1998.
• One more shutout puts Fleury in elite company
Fleury has four shutouts this post-season which is twice as many as anyone else. The all-time record for shutouts in a single playoff is seven, put together by Martin Brodeur en route to the 2003 Stanley Cup. Dominik Hasek recorded six shutouts in a playoff run once.
While there’s still a very outside chance Fleury sets a new record here, one more shutout puts him among a small elite. He’s already one of just 18 goalies with four shutouts in a post-season — one more will make him just the sixth goalie to ever get five in a playoff run. Aside from Brodeur and Hasek, the other three to get five shutouts are Giguere, Miikka Kiprusoff and Nikolai Khabibulin.
One more shutout would also give Fleury his 15th in post-season history, passing Dominik Hasek, and making him just the sixth goalie to get that many in a career.
• This is the best playoff performance for a player with a great playoff history
Fleury has won three Stanley Cups, but even if he loses this one it could go down as his greatest performance.
The one to rival this run is actually his first trip to the final, when the young Penguins were defeated by the Detroit Red Wings. Fleury finished that run with a 1.97 GAA, .933 save percentage and three shutouts — he has never finished a post-season with a GAA below two, SP above .930 or more than two shutouts since.
He won his first Cup the following season with a .908 save percentage, which was followed by a bit of a post-season lull period. His next four playoff appearances from 2010-13 all finished with save percentages below .900 before returning to form in 2014. In the five playoffs since that season, Fleury’s combined .929 save percentage is third-best, his 2.20 GAA ranks eighth and he has more shutouts than anyone with eight.
HOLTBY VS. FLEURY
This goalie matchup actually gives us a showdown of two of the best playoff goalies over the past five years. Holtby (.930) and Fleury (.929) are second and third in save percentage over that time (Craig Anderson is first with half as many games played). They are both also top four in shutouts, wins and saves.
Fleury has had to be the better of the two in these playoffs with the Capitals playing so well on defence, but overall these are the best two post-season goalies since the last work stoppage in 2013.