Capitals Face Fleury Problem in Final

The Washington Capitals faced a gauntlet getting through the Eastern Conference this postseason. They had to start with a tough Columbus Blue Jackets team, then face off with their nemesis in the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Stanley Cup champs in each of the past two seasons. Next came a seven-game battle with the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The next challenge won’t be any easier for the Caps, as they will have to go up against another old nemesis in net.

Marc-Andre Fleury was the marquee name to join the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. He put up fantastic numbers for the Golden Knights during the regular season, posting a record of 29-13-4 with a 2.24 goals-against average (GAA) and .927 save percentage (SV%).

Vegas continued to lean on Fleury when the postseason began, and he carried them to the final round. He has plenty of postseason experience under his belt, having spent the last 13 seasons with the Penguins.

Fleury Owns the Caps

Washington fans have to be nervous at the prospects of facing Fleury in the final round. However, it’s very fitting that if the Caps are to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, they will have to battle a strong Pittsburgh connection.

Fleury is very familiar with Washington. He’s done very well against the Caps in his career, posting a 22-12-2 career record against them in the regular season. He was undefeated in two games against Washington this season, allowing a total of just three goals. He pitched a shutout against the Capitals at home on Dec. 23.

Throughout his postseason career, Fleury has been a tough wall for the Capitals to break through. The Stanley Cup Final will mark the third time the Caps face Fleury in the postseason. Two years ago, Fleury was out with a concussion when the Pens and Caps met in the postseason.

Marc-Andre Fleury and Andre Burakovsky
Marc-Andre Fleury and Andre Burakovsky (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Last season, Fleury posted a 2.58 GAA with a save percentage of .921 against the Caps in the second round of the playoffs. He was brilliant in Game 7, shutting out the Caps and leading the Pens to a 2-0 victory. In 2009, Fleury helped Pittsburgh come back and win the best-of-seven series against the Caps after dropping the first two games.

Overall, Fleury is 8-6 all-time against the Caps in the postseason.

Hottest Goalie in Stanley Cup Playoffs

It’s not enough for Washington to have a poor history against Fleury. Making things even tougher for the Caps is the fact that the veteran netminder is playing some of the best hockey of his career and has been virtually unbeatable during Vegas’s run through the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Fleury, known affectionately as “Flower,” has started all 15 games during the postseason for the Golden Knights. He has put up remarkable numbers, posting a record of 12-3 with a minuscule GAA of 1.68 and a save percentage of .947.

Looking at his career numbers in the playoffs, Fleury has a 2.53 GAA and a .913 save percentage. Based on his current numbers, it would seem that Fleury is playing a bit over his head. However, he has not shown any signs of slowing down this postseason.

Four of his career 14 shutouts in the postseason have come this year.

Heading into the Stanley Cup Final, Fleury is riding a four-game win streak, having allowed just six goals over that stretch. He allowed four goals in a Game 1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference Final, but has been dominant since that point.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Golden Knights
Marc-Andre Fleury – Vegas Golden Knights (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Vegas has been a great story this year, and its postseason run has been nothing short of remarkable. Fleury has been a big reason for that success.

Fortunately for the Caps, scoring hasn’t been much of a problem this postseason, so they have plenty of firepower to throw at Fleury.

Washington leads the league this postseason with 66 goals scored and 176 points registered. Alex Ovechkin (12 goals, 10 assists) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (11 goals, 13 assists) are the top two point-getters this postseason.

If the Caps are going to end Vegas’s magical season, the big offensive weapons are going to need to figure out how to beat Fleury. If that happens, then Washington will have an excellent chance to hoist the Stanley Cup when it’s all said it done.