So here is Fleury at 551 victories, tied with Patrick Roy, but still far behind Martin Brodeur. At almost 39 years old, he reached this threshold a little later than his youth idols: Roy was thirty-seven and a half, and Brodeur, 36 years and 10 months, on the day of their 551st win. Regardless, Fleury needed fewer starts to achieve the feat: 975, compared to 977 (Broudre) and 1003 (Roy). The latter, however, spent most of their careers in the draw era. If shootouts had existed before 2005, they would certainly have had more victories.
The Sorel native is the last goalie selected first overall in the NHL draft. Only Rick DiPietro (2000) and Michel Plasse (1968) preceded him. In 2003, the Pittsburgh Penguins gave in to pressure from their ex-goalie turned recruiter, Gilles Meloche, and made a trade to move from third to first level. The Florida Panthers were strangely greedy: to let the Penguins go first, they settled for the third overall selection, a second-round pick and Mikael Samuelsson, a forward who played in 37 games in Sunrise.
There were 646 days, or 21 months, between Fleury’s 22nd and 23rd NHL games. At 18, after struggling through 22 games in which he won only four times, the Quebecer was traded to his junior club, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, in January 2004. A lockout followed. led to the complete cancellation of the 2004-05 season, which Fleury spent in the American League. His return to the big leagues in the fall of 2005 coincided with the arrival of Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh.
We no longer think about it, but his rise to number one goalie in the NHL did not happen overnight. In 2005-2006, Fleury began the season in the American League, but was quickly recalled when Jocelyn Thibault was injured. In October and November, he played 12 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before being called up for good. He only saw the minor leagues for a few games in 2008, to get back into shape after nursing an ankle injury.
At 22 years old, Marc-André Fleury is well established in the starting seat with the Penguins. He scored 40 victories in 2006-2007, a plateau he would only reach once more.
A 20-year, 1,000-game NHL career inevitably comes with its fair share of bad goals for a goalie. The one conceded by Fleury to Henrik Zetterberg on June 4, 2008, however, remained one of the most memorable for him. In the sixth game of the Stanley Cup final, the Penguins fell behind 2 to 1. In the third period, the Swede advanced on the left flank and fired a shot that the goaltender seemed to control. However, it is not. The puck slides gently under Fleury and stops behind him. To add insult to injury, the Quebecer, trying to immobilize her, pushes her into his own net. Even though there were over 12 minutes left to play, it would ultimately be the game-winning goal and the series.
One year later. Game 7 of the Finals, again against the Red Wings. The seconds tick by, and the puck travels into Penguins territory. Fleury allows a long throw return, and Nicklas Lidstrom pounces on the free disc. This time, no misstep: he throws himself to his right and stops the legendary defender’s shot with 1.5 seconds left. Time is up: the Penguins are champions! Fleury wins his first Stanley Cup.
From 2009-2010 to 2015-2016, the Penguins were a dominant team, and so was their goaltender. No one wins more matches than Marc-André Fleury in the meantime. However, he never came close to being nominated for the Vezina Trophy. These in-season successes, however, do not translate into playoff victories. From 2010 to 2015, the team only made it through the first round twice, and never the second.
In March 2016, Fleury suffered a concussion that kept him out of the game for a few weeks. It is therefore Matt Murray who is called upon to replace him until the end of the season. The 21-year-old wunderkind takes the Penguins to the conference finals. Finally recovered, Fleury was called in for relief in game 4 and started game 5, which he lost. Murray finds the net and doesn’t lose it again, leading the Penguins to the Cup. Fleury’s series comes down to two games.
It takes 16 wins for a team to win the Stanley Cup. Marc-André Fleury signed nine during the 2017 playoffs. Two losses in the conference finals, including a poor performance in Game 3, cost him his net. He watched the entire end of the series from the end of the bench, witnessing Matt Murray’s second triumph.
In June 2017, Marc-André Fleury was not protected by the Penguins for the expansion draft. The Vegas Golden Knights, the 31st team in the NHL, did not hesitate to make him their franchise player. The Quebecer leaves the Penguins, leaving behind almost every imaginable record among the organization’s goaltenders.
Fleury revived his career in the Nevada desert, where he scored victories and played almost 50 games in the playoffs. His reign, however, ended in the strangest of ways. During the same summer, in 2021, he won the Vezina Trophy, the first and only of his career, after maintaining a goals against average of 1.98 and a save percentage of .928, two highs for him; then it is exchanged for… nothing. Stuck by the salary cap, the Knights sent him to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Fleury quickly moved to Chicago and was traded to the Minnesota Wild in March 2022, joining the fourth team of his career. Although he now has to share the net with Filip Gustavsson, 13 years his junior, he has 24 victories in 2022-2023. Without confirming it, he admitted that this season could be his last on the circuit. If this is the case, he will bow out with his head held high and exit through the front door. Before, probably, crossing those of the Hockey Hall of Fame.