Filip Gustavsson was the first Minnesota Wild player to receive his report card for this past season, which leaves his goaltending partner, Marc-André Fleury as next in line. Fleury joined the team in the latter half of 2021-22 after being traded from the Chicago Blackhawks. This was his first 82-game season with the Wild and he definitely made an impact.
Ask any coach in the NHL who they would want as a veteran goaltender to train their rookie, and Fleury would be in the top five. He’s charismatic, has a great attitude, talent, and a lot of experience in all sorts of situations. He proved that this season when it started out rocky; he kept his composure and got things back on the winning side.
Fleury Becomes Mentor
Fleury has been a part of many successful teams and while this season came to a quick end, he still accomplished quite a bit. He played in 46 games, started 45 of them, and had a record of 24-16-4 which earned him 17th overall in the entire NHL. His save percentage (SV%) wasn’t the greatest at .908 and his goals-against average (GAA) could’ve been better at 2.85 but he still contributed a lot to his team.
At 38 years of age, Fleury clearly isn’t the same player he was five years ago but he’s not out of the game just yet. Normally goaltenders are fighting for that starting position but Fleury has been looking for more of a 50/50 split which was nearly perfect for the Wild bringing in Gustavsson who was still a rookie at the time. Plus, being able to share the net with someone who has the experience level of Fleury, it couldn’t get much better than that.
While Fleury wasn’t the star he used to be, he was able to fill more of a mentorship role for Gustavsson who will hopefully be a part of the Wild’s goaltending future as he continues to improve his game. There’s a lot Fleury can teach him and he can learn just by watching the way Fleury carries himself. Fleury takes 100 percent of the responsibility and is a team-first type of player.
Fleury has been in the league long enough to have his career evolve from rookie to veteran to teacher. He can still play at an extremely high level but thankfully he has been honest with the Wild about what he can and can’t handle when it comes to ice time. Also, having Gustavsson as his partner has added to Fleury’s career where he’s mentoring instead of fighting for a spot. Overall, he didn’t have a spectacular regular season but he did provide some great goaltending that led to wins for his team.
Fleury’s One-Game Postseason
Unlike last season when Fleury was relied on to save his team in the playoffs, this time he was put in for Game 2 after Gustavsson had just pulled off a double overtime win in Game 1. Normally teams stay with the hot goaltender during the postseason but since the Wild had been somewhat rotating during the season, head coach Dean Evason decided to try it during the playoffs. It didn’t work out in their favor with the Dallas Stars taking the win 7-3 and tieing the series at one game a piece.
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Fleury did struggle in the game but he was also put in with a couple of big disadvantages. He was the cold goaltender since he hadn’t played a game in a little over a week and while that doesn’t seem like a long time, the playoffs are a whole different animal than the regular season. Plus, in Game 2 the Stars were angry about Game 1 and were not going to lose their second straight at home so they came out with everything they had.
The Wild as a whole weren’t ready for Game 2 and Fleury was essentially thrown to the wolves. He did make some mistakes but the loss was not on his shoulders. He did what he could in the situation he was given. It’s hard to defend your net when your team continuously takes penalties against one of the strongest power plays in the league. Of course, it would’ve been great if Fleury could’ve pulled one of his miracle games but it wasn’t going to happen.
Fleury’s Final Grade
As far as the regular season goes, Fleury like Gustavsson had to fight through some adversity and came out better on the other side. There were still some slip-ups but no one’s perfect and he came up with some big wins for his team. He earned an A- for the regular season similar to his goaltending partner Gustavsson.
It’s hard to give Fleury a grade on the postseason because he only played in one of the six games but he was a great cheerleader for his partner. Whenever the two were seen together during a game, he appeared encouraging and supportive as a goaltending team should be. His loss was crucial during their small playoff run but again it wasn’t his fault.
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So for the postseason, Fleury earned a B/B+ and that means his overall grade was a B+, and again he was similar to Gustavsson. The two had almost equal regular season records with their save percentage and goals against differing a bit as Fleury let in a few more goals per game. Fleury has played an important part in both the net and being a mentor for Gustavsson. Hopefully, this can continue next season and when Fleury’s contract is up, he’ll leave behind a well-rounded replacement in Gustavsson.