Jonathan Quick

What they’re saying about the Fleury extension

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The Pittsburgh Penguins’ decision to sign Marc-Andre Fleury to a four-year, $23 million contract extension was met with mixed opinions.

There are reasons why Pittsburgh made this move. He’s had some solid campaigns, won a Stanley Cup, and the Penguins’ options weren’t appealing given the relatively weak projected free agent goaltending market in 2015 and the lack of appealing alternatives within the Penguins’ system. At the same time, he has struggled mightily in some of the Penguins’ playoff runs, which has led to some people to question his ability to consistently stand tall under pressure.

Dave Lozo argued the latter stance when he broke down the deal for the Bleacher Report:

The best thing anyone can say about Fleury at this stage of his career is that he has been average at his profession during the regular season for a very long time, but really, he’s been below average in recent years, even with his .931 save percentage in 12 games this season.

The real insanity, where it appears in its truest form, is the decision to invest four more years in Fleury despite his comically bad postseasons since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009. It’s as if general manager Jim Rutherford is still bitter about the Penguins knocking his Hurricanes out of the conference finals on the way to that Stanley Cup and is now actively sabotaging the primes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Fleury has gotten off to a strong start this season with a 1.89 GAA and .931 save percentage in nine games, but given all that’s come before it, the Sporting News‘ Sean Gentille isn’t willing to assume that he’s embarked on a career year:

The worst-case scenario for Pittsburgh is that they’ve hitched their wagon to a goalie who can’t be relied upon to put together a complete, consistent, truly above-average season (he’s finished one of his 10 above .918) or avoid self-destructing in May. The feeling that they’ve done just that is also based on years of evidence, and if that’s the guy they just bought for five more years, no amount of equivocating is going to make the decision a smart one.

Not everyone has been critical of the Penguins’ decision to re-sign Fleury though. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun thinks inking him eliminates what could have been a big distraction hanging over Pittsburgh’s heads late into the season or playoffs. His colleague Scott Burnside also seemed okay with the move:

For me, it’s a simple question of what was the alternative? Let’s say the Pens moved Fleury in the offseason or at some point during this season because they wanted something different next spring. Who’s better? Ilya Bryzgalov? Nope. Martin Brodeur? Nope. Tomas Vokoun? He was terrific for the Pens in 2013 but, with his health issues, he’s not a real option long-term and maybe not even short-term.

Let’s say the San Jose Sharks and the Pens swapped netminders with Antti Niemi coming to Pittsburgh, how is that an upgrade even though both Niemi and Fleury have won Cups and are off to terrific starts this season? And let’s not forget that Fleury could hardly be blamed for the Pens’ collapse against the New York Rangers in the second round of last spring’s playoffs when they let a 3-1 series lead slip away, scoring just three times in the last three games. If the Penguins win another Cup in June, or even if they go to a final or a conference final, this deal will look fine. If Fleury reverts to the form he showed from 2010-13, well, that’ll be an entirely different story, and the pressure from ownership to make use of that limited no-trade clause will be significant.

Sports Illustrated’s Allan Muir took a similar stance:

Would the Pens have preferred an upgrade between the pipes? I have no doubt. But the Rangers aren’t dealing Henrik Lundqvist. The Habs are holding on to Carey Price. Jonathan Quick will have grandkids before he leaves Los Angeles.

With Antti Niemi and Viktor Fasth headlining the Class of 2015 and Cam Ward and Jonas Hiller the top names in 2016, there was no help on the horizon via free agency.

Ultimately, it will be a while before we can say with any degree of certainty whether this deal will be to Pittsburgh’s benefit. Fleury is a gamble given his history, but perhaps he’s one that will pay off over the life of his new contract.

Brown leads Kings to first road win

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Kings’ captain Dustin Brown scored his second of the season, on his 30th birthday, leading L.A. to a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars Tuesday night.

Trevor Lewis, who returned from an upper body injury, and Kyle Clifford had the others for the Kings. The win was the Kings’ first victory away from the Staples Center this season. L.A. is now 1-3-2 on the road.

“He’s gonna work. I talked to him last night about getting him back into the penalty killing a little bit, because that’s what his role is on our team,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of Lewis. “We switched Jarret (Stoll) and Mike (Richards) partway through the first period and put Mike with Kinger (Dwight King) and Brownie, and that helped us a little bit.”

“I think, and putting Jarret with Lewie and Cliffy helped us a little bit. Got to find ways to score when you’re not scoring. I mean, still the top end of your lineup’s got to score goals. Five-on-three, you’ve got to score a goal, and Gabby (Marian Gaborik) had some really good looks. If he’s sharper, he probably scores on a couple of them. It’s the way it goes.”

Shawn Horcoff had the lone goal for the Stars in the loss. Kari Lehtonen made 27 saves while seeing his record drop to 4-2-4 on the season.

Jonathan Quick improved to 6-3-2 with a 33 save performance.

There was a scary moment in the third period when Justin Williams received a high-stick from Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon.

Dillon received a double-minor for high-sticking while Williams left the game immediately.

Sutter said Williams should be OK.

“Lucky it wasn’t his eye…be careful, just see how it goes,” he said.

Both winless in four, Kings and Stars meet tonight in Dallas

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The Los Angeles Kings may be winless in their last four, but that doesn’t mean they’ve played poorly, according to their coach, Darryl Sutter.

“We probably played better in some of these games than we did in the miraculous home-stand everyone talked about,” Sutter said, per Lisa Dillman of the L.A. Times.

The Kings won six straight at home earlier in the season, though like Sutter suggested, they didn’t play particularly well in all those victories. If not for goalie Jonathan Quick (against St. Louis on Oct. 16 and Minnesota on Oct. 19, in particular), the Stanley Cup champs probably wouldn’t have finished that home-stand undefeated.

But Quick hasn’t been so unbeatable in recent outings, and despite racking up 138 total shots, the Kings’ offense has managed just six goals during its four-game winless streak. (The Chicago Blackhawks feel their pain.)

The Kings are in Dallas tonight to face another team on a four-game winless streak. Unlike Sutter, though, Stars coach Lindy Ruff can’t say he’s happy with how his team has been performing.

“There is energy missing in our game. It is as simple as that,” said Ruff. “We are getting beat to pucks. We are not winning enough of the small battles. It is as simple as that. The energy level of our team isn’t good enough to win games.”

Goalie nods: Greiss gets Wild, despite Fleury’s back-to-back shutouts

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News and notes from around the crease…

Fleury takes a seat

Interesting decision from the Penguins tonight, as they’ll give backup Thomas Greiss the start against the Wild at Xcel — even though Marc-Andre Fleury, the NHL’s reigning third star of the week, is in the midst of a two-game shutout streak.

The Penguins kick off a five-game roadie starting tonight and Greiss hasn’t played since Oct. 23, so there are some reasons to get him in. That said, Fleury has been nothing short of outstanding lately — he actually has three shutouts in his last four starts — and tonight’s game is one of Pittsburgh’s bigger tests; Minnesota is third in the NHL in goals per game (3.40) with a perfect 5-0-0 record at home, and the Penguins have some “easier” games on this trip, including a stop in Buffalo on Saturday.

For the Wild, Darcy Kuemper will be in goal.

Elsewhere…

Panthers at Bruins: Roberto Luongo vs. Tuukka Rask

Oilers at Flyers: Viktor Fasth vs. Steve Mason

Flames at Caps: Jonas Hiller vs. Braden Holtby

‘Canes at Jackets: Cam Ward vs. Curtis McElhinney

Wings at Sens: Jimmy Howard vs. Craig Anderson

‘Hawks at Habs: Corey Crawford vs. Carey Price

Blues at Devils: Jake Allen vs. Cory Schneider

Preds at Jets: Carter Hutton vs. Ondrej Pavelec

Kings at Stars: Kari Lehtonen for Dallas, Jonathan Quick likely for L.A.

Canucks at Avs: Ryan Miller vs. Semyon Varlamov

Leafs at Coyotes: Mike Smith for Arizona, Jonathan Bernier likely for Toronto.

Carolina hangs on for second straight win

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For the second time in as many nights the Carolina Hurricanes have a win.

The ‘Canes hung on for a 3-2 win Sunday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings.

The Canes are now 2-0-0 to start November after going 0-6-2 last month.

Carolina last won back-to-back games to conclude the 2013-14 season.

The Kings meanwhile have yet to win on the road this season falling to 0-4-2 away from the Staples Center.

Victor Rask opened the scoring with his first NHL goal.

Chris Terry gave Carolina 2-0 lead early in the second period.

After Mike Richards got the Kings on the board, Elias Lindholm picked up the eventual game winner.

Alec Martinez had the other L.A. goal.

Jonathan Quick made 29 saves in the loss while Cam Ward made 27 saves for his second straight win of the season.