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Fleury could be good option for Flames … or even Flyers

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Marc-Andre Fleury is 6-1 with a .936 save percentage in these playoffs. The 32-year-old goalie is proving he can still play at a high level. He outperformed Sergei Bobrovsky in the first round, and now he’s outperforming Braden Holtby.

But the reality remains — the Penguins can only protect one goalie in the expansion draft, and Matt Murray is the future in Pittsburgh.

In other words, Fleury is still likely to be traded this offseason, no matter how well he’s playing right now. He only has two years left on his contract, with a cap hit of $5.75 million.

And that lack of term may actually be attractive to some suitors.

Take a team like Calgary. The Flames have some young goalies in the system, but nobody under contract to bridge the gap. They could always go out and sign Ben Bishop on July 1, but they’d probably have to give him big money and term. And then, what if Bishop doesn’t work out? Brian Elliott didn’t work out, and Bishop is not coming off the best season.

Or — and wouldn’t this be interesting — take a team like Philadelphia. The Flyers are in a similar predicament to Calgary. They have some good, young goalies in the organization, led by 23-year-old Anthony Stolarz. But are they willing to go into next season with a tandem of Stolarz and Michal Neuvirth? The former is still pretty inexperienced, and the latter had an .891 save percentage in 2016-17.

If you think about it, getting Fleury out of Pittsburgh would be sort of like the Flyers getting Valtteri Filppula out of Tampa Bay.

Filppula is only signed through next season.

“On July 1, you don’t get a player like this on a one-year deal,” GM Ron Hextall said of Filppula. “The money, you won’t get this type of player on a one-year deal, which was attractive to us.”

Which begs the question — could you get a goalie like Fleury on a two-year deal?

Anyway, just something to think about. The Penguins and their fans probably aren’t too focused on the offseason right now, but other teams — and let’s not forget about Dallas — certainly are.

Related: Scott Darling trade ‘worth the risk’ for Hurricanes

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

After ‘breakout’ year in AHL, Fleury ready to crack ‘Canes lineup

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If it feels like we’ve written about Haydn Fleury being ready to make the leap before… well, it’s because we have.

Quite a few times.

There are reasons for this, of course. Fleury was the second defenseman off the board at the 2014 draft, taken six spots behind No. 1 overall selection Aaron Ekblad. He’s just one of two top-15 picks from his draft year yet to play in the NHL — the fifth overall selection, Isles prospect Michael Dal Colle, is also waiting to make the leap — and he’s already two years behind fellow ‘Canes blueliner Noah Hanifin, who was taken in the ’15 draft and just wrapped his sophomore NHL campaign.

Progress has been a slow process. But now, it finally sounds like Fleury’s ready to break through.

“He’s had, in my opinion, a breakout year,” AHL Charlotte coach Ulf Samuelsson said this week, per the Observer. “He’s been one of our most consistent players. He’s taken a step maybe each month and the last month has made the biggest step because he’s now using his size.

“He’s hard to play against. He’s always been good joining the rush, jumping up, but he has turned into a really good two-way defenseman.”

After a lengthy junior career in Red Deer, Fleury played his first season of pro hockey in Charlotte this season, and acquitted himself nicely. He raced up seven goals and 26 points in 69 games and, as per Samuelsson’s above quote, has used his 6-foot-3, 207-pound frame to his advantage.

Some might look at Fleury’s slow progression to the pro game, and consider him a draft bust. That doesn’t appear to be the case.

‘Canes GM Ron Francis has taken a more deliberate approach with Fleury, 20, and another promising blueliner, 21-year-old Roland McKeown. Both were knocking on the door of making the Carolina roster to start the year, but Francis opted to send them back to Charlotte for more seasoning.

One might wonder why Francis opted to slow play these two, when Hanifin was fast-tracked to the NHL at 18. The answer might not lie with Fleury and McKeown, but rather the group as a whole — Carolina had one of the youngest bluelines in the league this year, featuring Hanifin (20), Jaccob Slavin (22), Brett Pesce (22), Ryan Murphy (24) and Justin Faulk (25).

Murphy, however, could be lost to Las Vegas in the upcoming expansion draft, resulting in an open roster spot. And journeyman Matt Tennyson, who appeared in 45 games on defense for the ‘Canes this season, is a pending UFA.

All this points to Fleury making his long-awaited NHL debut in the fall.

Blue Jackets baffle Fleury, Crosby; push Penguins to Game 5

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Did the Columbus Blue Jackets get back in the groove, even in falling behind 3-0 in their series, considering the four goals they scored against Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 3? Either way, they really made “The Flower” wilt on Tuesday.

Granted, Columbus didn’t beat Pittsburgh 5-4 in Game 4 due to Fleury’s struggles alone.

Instead, they played exactly like you’d picture a team would need to play to fight off a sweep: aggressive while shaking off setbacks.

Stream Penguins vs. Blue Jackets on NBC Sports

Early in the second period, the Blue Jackets went up 3-0, only to see the Penguins enter the final frame down a single goal. You could argue that a more fragile team might have fallen apart, especially against an opponent as dangerous as the Penguins.

Instead, the Blue Jackets just kept pushing forward.

William Karlsson made it 4-2 just 27 seconds into the third, a huge goal that prompted fun hair-flip GIFs. Yet … there was another opportunity for frustration to take over when Tom Kuhnhackl shrunk the lead to one goal again about 90 seconds later.

Again, the Blue Jackets just kept fighting. Boone Jenner made it 5-3 mere minutes later on what would ultimately stand as the game-winner.

(Yes, the Penguins scored once again … but too late this time around.)

It was also a rare rough night for Sidney Crosby, who failed to generate a shot on goal and suffered a -3 rating. Three assists from Phil Kessel and two from Evgeni Malkin just weren’t enough to knock the Blue Jackets out.

While Fleury faces some questions after allowing four and five goals in Columbus, Sergei Bobrovsky breathes a sigh of relief … though you wonder if there’s still some self-doubt. Merely looking at this stat could make Bobrovsky and others shudder.

They can work on that in Pittsburgh for Game 5. At least tonight they finally won a playoff game in regulation – and stayed alive in the series – on Tuesday.

It’s a long ride to getting the most important first on their minds (first Blue Jackets comeback from a 3-0 deficit), but they took that initial leap tonight.

Fleury ‘seems to stop the hard ones and maybe let in the easy ones,’ says Hartnell

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To hear Scott Hartnell explain it, Columbus doesn’t see much of a difference between facing Matt Murray or Marc-Andre Fleury.

“Potato, Po-tah-to, both Murray and Fleury are good,” Hartnell said, per the Blue Jackets website. “(The change) doesn’t cause any havoc for us. Everyone on this team has faced Fleury a bunch of times. He’s won Stanley Cups.

“He seems to stop the hard ones and maybe let in the easy ones.”

Stream Penguins vs. Blue Jackets on NBC Sports

One would assume Hartnell’s comments are (partially) in reference to the 2012 Penguins-Flyers series, in which Hartnell was playing for Philly. Fleury was ventilated for 26 goals on 131 shots over six games, finishing with an ugly .834 save percentage.

But that was then. This is now.

Fleury was thrust into the starting role just prior to Wednesday’s series opener, after Murray went down during warmup with a lower-body injury. It’s believed Murray re-aggravated a groin injury suffered late in the regular season, and it’s serious enough to keep him out of the lineup entirely — Fleury will start tonight’s Game 2, with AHL recall Tristan Jarry serving as the backup.

Fleury was excellent in Game 1, stopping 31 of 32 shots, including all 16 faced in a very busy opening period. Matt Calvert ended his shutout bid with a marker midway through the final frame.

Columbus said the goal for tonight’s tilt is to make life even busier for Fleury.

“We got to focus on getting more pucks to the net,” Brandon Dubinsky said. “We need to get more pucks to the blues and make it hard on Fleury by trying to generate some rebounds.”

As for Hartnell — well, this isn’t the first time he’s had a quip about the Penguins. Prior to the series starting, he was asked if Pittsburgh had matured over the last few years.

“Maybe Sid [Crosby],” Hartnell replied, per the Post-Gazette. “He’s not whining all the time.”

Puck drop tonight is at 7 p.m. from PPG Paints. You can catch the game on NHL Network, or stream it here.