PHT Morning Skate: Fleury covers Niskanen’s name on the back of his mask

20 Comments

Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Niskanen were teammates in Pittsburgh for a couple of years, but whatever relationship they have/had has officially been put on hold. Fleury, who has the names of some of his current and former teammates on the back of his mask, taped over Niskanen’s name. If you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, Niskanen knocked Sidney Crosby out of Game 3 with a cross-check to the head. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

Brendan Smith moved from Detroit to New York at the trade deadline, and he’s liked his experience in his new city. Smith is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, but it sounds like he’s willing to stick around the “Big Apple”. (New York Daily News)

–New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman is a huge fan of the New Jersey Devils, and he recently reached out to Ray Shero after the Devils won the draft lottery. “Listen, the way all sports are, you’re up, then you’re forced down over time. We’re over here with the Yankees going through our rebound, we hope and we think. We’re on a good trajectory and I think the Devils are, too.” (NJ.com)

–The Washington Capitals are on the verge of being eliminated from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs after last night’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps came back to tie the game after trailing 2-0, but it simply wasn’t meant to be. You can check out the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–This could be a huge off-season for the Carolina Hurricanes. The ‘Canes have plenty of draft picks and a lot of cap space, so it’s the perfect time to use that to acquire a big-name player or two this summer. “Pieces need to come in, in order to close that gap. The reality is, if we think guys from Charlotte are going to come in and close that gap? It’s not happening, in my opinion as the coach.” (Charlotte Observer)

–Now that the draft lottery has come and gone, Sean McIndoe looks at five games that could have changed the outcome of the 2017 lottery. For example, on Jan. 15, the Canucks lost an OT decision to the Devils. A win in that game would have moved Vancouver ahead of New Jersey in the final standings. That would have resulted in Vancouver getting the top pick in the draft. (The Hockey News)

–Even though his goal in last night’s game was a little fluky, Jake Guentzel‘s post-season run has been pretty remarkable:

 

Video: Fleury, Hornqvist combine for incredible, desperate save

4 Comments

Game 3 of the Capitals – Penguins has been chaotic. It’s been wild enough that it’s easy to lose track of how outstanding both Braden Holtby and Marc-Andre Fleury have been.

So far, it sure seems like Holtby’s back to his elite form. He’s currently pitching a shutout through two periods, though he did get some help from a goalie interference call (that was probably accurate).

Fleury has been beaten once on an odd bounce in the first period, but overall, he’s been absolutely fantastic in Game 3. He combined with Patric Hornqvist with what easily ranks as one of the best saves of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

You can watch it in video from above and in the following GIF:

Fleury and the Penguins experienced an extreme close call there, while the Capitals got lucky at least once themselves:

Some 1-0 games through 40 minutes can come down to tight defense and tepid offense as much as anything else. In this case, the goalies have been a huge reason why it’s been so low-scoring.

Fleury could be good option for Flames … or even Flyers

Getty
18 Comments

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

42 Comments

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

Getty
2 Comments

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.