At 7 p.m. on Saturday, October 16, the Penguins will face Marc-André Fleury for the first time in his newly sewn Chicago Blackhawks jersey.
Pittsburgh is no stranger to battles with its former goaltender – although the team haven’t seen him in a bubble split into 2020-21 divisions, the Penguins have faced Fleury five times since his selection in the Draft. 2017 expansion.
December 14, 2017: Penguins 1, Golden Knights 2
Every time Fleury takes on the Penguins it feels like he’s speeding up his usual stunts, perhaps just to remind Pittsburgh fans how fun it is to have a heart rate spike when you watch your goalie. to leave the enclosure.
When he first met the Penguins in 2017 in Vegas, Fleury turned to Dominik Simon as he prepared for a blind pass behind the net from Sidney Crosby. But when Simon sniffed the shot and, while falling, pushed a desperate pass to Brian Dumoulin from the other side of the cage, Fleury swung out of the net to block the angle with his whole body as one of the 24. saves that sealed Vegas’ 2-1 victory.
The Penguins only scored once against Fleury in that opener, when Carl Hagelin’s quick pass to Ian Cole at the goal line left Cole with an empty half of the net.
February 6, 2018: Golden Knights 4, Penguins 5
The Penguins have scored five straight goals to welcome Fleury back to Pittsburgh — Ryan Reaves, left-circle glove shooter; Ian Cole, tackle side player from lunge; Jake Guentzel, projected on a timer on the glove on the other side; Evgeni Malkin, blocker side snapshot to complete a two-on-one race; and Phil Kessel, ending an unlucky passing game with a receiving shot from the blockers. Fleury stopped 33 of 38 shots for a save percentage of 0.868.
“Now I can see what the other goalie has been up to, all these years,” Fleury said that night in a post-game interview. “It’s good to play against them, they are very talented, very fast and able to create a lot of space and time to score goals. … Sometimes I have found myself thinking a little too much about what they usually like to do, their tendencies and what I have seen a lot.
January 19, 2019: Penguins 3, Golden Knights 7
Fleury doesn’t always need pear trees and acrobatics to stun the Penguins.
This time, Fleury stopped 34 of 37 shots for a .919 save percentage. Goals against: Olli Maatta’s landing shot sets up Kessel’s in the blue paint; Fleury dives off the crease to reduce Guentzel’s angle, who sends the puck to Simon on the open side of the net; Guentzel’s pass behind the net finds Crosby in the high lunge before Fleury can prepare for his receiving shot.
October 19, 2019: Golden Knights 3, Penguins 0
Fleury, who leads the Pittsburgh franchise with 10 shutouts, got a poetic rematch in Pittsburgh with a 29-save shutout, including a save on what looked like a near-guaranteed count from Juuso Riikola. A quick cross shot found Riikola alone on a power play with an empty net yawning a few yards away – but Fleury, even without a post to press her skate against, slipped into a lunge across the goal line for block the shot with an outstretched glove-hand arm.
Fleury then withstood three Penguins power plays without letting a single puck cross the goal line, despite the persistent screen put in place by Patric Hornqvist.
“Horny was always up front, I couldn’t see the puck,” Fleury said in a post-game interview that night. “I was still fighting to find him.”
January 7, 2020: Penguins 4, Golden Knights 3
The Golden Knights had a four-game winning streak before their most recent meeting with the Penguins, a streak Pittsburgh was more than happy to break. Brandon Tanev scored the game-winning goal with a sparkling solo effort, dodging Fleury’s bodycheck as he swept the puck into the crease before slipping it past his too slow right pad.
It’s a rather brief story – five games, two Penguins wins and a shutout to get revenge on Fleury – but there hasn’t been a single clash yet without Fleury pulling off at least one robbery.
Could that change this Saturday?
Fleury looked stunned in the Blackhawks’ season opener on Oct. 13, when the Colorado Avalanche, led by former Penguin Jack Johnson, scored three goals in the game’s opening 10 minutes.
The Blackhawks’ defense is not that of the Golden Knights, and in Chicago, Fleury will face the biggest exposure he has seen in years. Meanwhile, Fleury is up against a Penguins team powered by top scorers Danton Heinen and Evan Rodrigues, a team he doesn’t know as well as he once did with a certain two-headed monster.
The Oct. 16 clash between the two teams marks the start of a new chapter in Pittsburgh’s relationship with the winner of the 2021 NHL Vezina Trophy.