Having retired from hockey for three years, Maxime Talbot has not put away his skates. Every summer, he jumps on the ice with his good friend Marc-André Fleury, to help him prepare for the upcoming season. “I’m still able to score against him, it’s always been easy for me! “, he jokes.
Among the players on the ice, we find Gabriel D’Aigle, a Quebec prospect in net for the 2025 draft.
“You look at Flower, who’s almost 40, and D’Aigle, who’s 17,” Talbot says. They push each other. That’s nice to look at. Imagine that you are D’Aigle, you are 17 years old, you see Flower pitching everywhere, doing cartwheels. And when it’s over, you see him stay for 30 minutes to sign, one after the other, autographs for the 60 kids who are there for the hockey schools. It’s not D’Aigle’s style to play the big star, but if he was, he just couldn’t. »
Fleury took another step toward immortality Saturday night in the Minnesota Wild’s 4-3 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, joining Patrick Roy for second all-time in the NHL with 551 wins . Talbot’s testimony reminds us that Fleury’s feat is due to his longevity, a longevity that is worked on in training.
“It’s pretty special to see a goalie pass Patrick,” said Brodeur. When I was young, this was a number that I considered unimaginable. A lot of things have to happen: you have to play for good teams, stay healthy, have the trust of the coaches. It says a lot about his career that he persevered like that. »
Brodeur sits alone at the top with 691 wins, a figure he achieved thanks to a workload unthinkable these days. He actually had 11 seasons of 70 or more starts. With the tendency of teams to divide the work among guards, we might as well call Brodeur’s record unattainable, like Nolan Ryan’s 511 Cy Young wins and 5,714 strikeouts.
Which will make Fleury the most victorious goalkeeper among “the others”.
Fleury’s longevity is astonishing in the sense that his success is based on extraordinary athletic abilities. Unlike those who survive by slowing down the game, Fleury plays with the same combativeness as at 25.
“What I like about Marc-André is that he has a lot of butterfly in his game, but he plays like an athlete, like a hockey player,” says Brodeur. Patrick didn’t do pokecheck, padstack. Marc-André and I, when I played, we got out of the box. When it was necessary to be spectacular, we were. That’s the fun! There aren’t many different goalies in the NHL anymore. They are all the same. »
It’s also fun to compare the iconic saves of the two goalkeepers. How can we forget that of Fleury at the expense of Nicklas Lidström in the final seconds of Game 7 of the 2009 final, for the first of his three Stanley Cups? It was an acrobatic save, like those that made the Sorelois famous.
And like “everything is in everything”, Fleury made a crazy save in his 551st victory: a belly dive made while coming back from his bench, after his coach wanted to remove him in favor of a sixth skater. A few seconds after his theft, the Wild tied the score to force overtime.
As for Roy – who did not want to be interviewed for this article – we find ourselves remembering everything except his saves: his fights with the Red Wings goalies, his response to Jeremy Roenick, his departure from Montreal, his famous climb with the puck. The famous nod to Tomas Sandström is one of those rare moments linked to his main mandate, which is stopping pucks.
The stop in question? Not enough to jump out of your seat. Simply good positioning, but the accumulation of saves against Sandström, a skilled scorer unable to break through Roy’s wall during this final, had led to this moment.
Fleury joined Roy in wins, but their other stats are, at first glance, surprisingly similar.
There are, however, some nuances. Roy played the first half of his career during one of the most offensive periods in the NHL. During his 18 seasons, teams scored an average of 3.10 goals per game, compared to 2.71 since Fleury arrived in the big leagues.
On the other hand, Fleury played his first two seasons, as well as a good part of the 2021-2022 campaign (in Chicago), on rebuilding teams, something Roy never had to endure.
According to Brodeur, however, the biggest difference has to do with their background. He recalls that Roy changed teams only once, mid-career. Fleury, meanwhile, enjoyed stability until age 32, before the 2017 expansion draft forced him out of Pittsburgh. His current club, the Wild, is his third team in six years.
“For me, you could almost say that I played for only one team, it was so short in St. Louis! Patrick played for two clubs. In my eyes, Marc-André’s journey is a form of perseverance,” says Brodeur.
When it comes to the personalities of Roy and Fleury, there is no risk of confusing them.
Lyle Odelein is one of four players in history to have been teammates of both goalies in the NHL. He won the 1993 Stanley Cup with Roy, and knew Fleury at age 20, during the 2005-06 season alone, the Penguins’ last season of misery before the dozen glorious years that awaited them.
He therefore did not know the Fleury of the good years. He speaks of a man “just happy, always smiling, a bit like me! », Says the Saskatchewanian on the other end of the line.
His description of Roy is obviously different, because he has a different experience with 33. “If I had to pick one, it would be Patrick Roy and it wouldn’t even be close. He won 10 games in a row in overtime, even though we were so young on defense. He was the biggest winner and competitor I have seen. »
Mark Recchi is another of the four (the other two are John LeClair, who declined an interview request, and Martin Skoula, who could not be reached). Recchi was around Roy for only 10 months; he played two parts of the season with Fleury, but knew him best when he was hired in player development by the Penguins.
“Patrick was a leader, he read the game well. Sometimes he would come up to me at intermission and say, ‘Have you thought about doing that?’ And I was like, “How does he think of that?” It was great. Both loved hockey. Flower gives pleasure to guys. He has quite a competitive spirit. If the guys are depressed, how can they stay depressed around Flower, who comes to work every day with that smile? You can not. »
Maxime Talbot won the 2009 Stanley Cup with Fleury, before ending up in Colorado with Patrick Roy, the head coach. He obviously knew the two men in very different contexts.
“Flower, his mind helps him. It’s so much fun, it takes away the stress. When you get to the arena and you just think about making a bad shot, changing Letang’s helmet, it keeps you young! Of course he would like to be in the net at all the Christie games. He has it, the competitive side. But he accepts it. »
“Flower is the ultimate teammate. Patrick is the ultimate winner. But Flower won three Cups anyway! And Patrick was a team player who was there with his intensity. They are two big ones. »