Penguins' Flower blooming; tonight's games to watch; more notes
Off The Draw...
Pittsburgh is hardly a one-man team—I hear this Crosby kid is supposed to be pretty good—but the Pens wouldn’t be holding down the top spot in the Metro Division, let alone challenging for the best record in the league, if not for the unflappable Flower.
Despite playing behind an injury-ravaged defense that has been in a near-constant state of flux, with players rotating in and out of the lineup, Fleury is putting up the best numbers of his career. He ranks among the league leaders in wins (fourth, with 12), save percentage (fifth, .926), goals-against average (fifth, 2.09) and shutouts (first, with four). But while those numbers may fluctuate, he put up one against the Bruins at TD Garden on Monday night that is written in stone.
With the Penguins’ 3–2 overtime victory, Fleury joined an elite group of goalies with 300 wins.
Just four days shy of his 30th birthday, Fleury is the third-youngest goaltender in NHL history to reach the milestone. The only two men to get to 300 wins faster? Martin Brodeur (29 years, 223 days) and Terry Sawchuck (29 years, 323 days). Fleury earned the memorable victory in just his 546th career game, faster than all but two goalies, Jacques Plante (521) and Andy Moog (543). Not bad company.
Fleury’s 300 victories also account for nearly 20% of the wins in franchise history (18.7% to be exact, according to this nifty infographic). If he’s not already recognized as the greatest goalie in Pittsburgh history, it’s only a matter of time.
“That’s pretty cool,” Fleury told the team website when apprised of his historical standing. “I’ve been fortunate to have good teammates and good teams. It was a little rough at the beginning when I first started, but our team kept improving. It’s cool to be there now.”
Of course Fleury understands that no matter what he does between now and April 11, he’ll ultimately be judged by what happens in the playoffs. It’s there, not in the regular season, that he has something to prove.
Still, like he says, it’s pretty cool where he's at now.
What to watch tonight
Los Angeles may be the defending Stanley Cup champs, but the Kings are decided underdogs as they head to Music City. For all its success so far this season, L.A. has yet to establish itself on the road, winning just once in eight games (1-4-3). Nashville, meanwhile, has turned Bridgestone Arena into a house of horrors for visitors, going 7-1-1 to stay within striking distance of the top spot in the Central. Both teams will be looking behind the blue line for the edge they'll need. Both Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne have played their way into Vezina contention with strong starts, ranking high among the league leaders in save percentage, goals-against average and wins. The game also marks a showdown between Team Canada stalwarts Shea Weber and Drew Doughty. Both men are handling heavy workloads—with L.A. battling injuries, Doughty is playing close to 30 minutes a game—and leading their team's blueliners in scoring, with 12 points each.
This one will go down as a triumphant return of a longtime Duck ... or the latest in an epic string of defeats. Jonas Hiller will be making his first appearance at The Pond since signing with Calgary as a free agent over the summer. The keeper, a veteran of seven seasons in Anaheim, was thrilled to pick up a win in his first meeting against his old mates earlier this month. “It feels great to get the win,” he said at the time. “Especially after being down after two periods and not playing our best game and finding a way to step it up. I think it shows a lot of character on this team.”
The Flames will need that character on Tuesday night if they hope to snap one of the league’s longest strings of futility. They have dropped an amazing 18 straight in Anaheim, dating back to Jan. 19, 2004. “This year is different,” defenseman Ladislav Smid told the Calgary Herald. “We’re going to go to Anaheim and keep this good thing going.” If Calgary wants to prove that things really are different, it might want to start by bottling up Ryan Getzlaf. The Ducks’ captain has owned the Flames, with six goals and 21 points in a 13-game home scoring streak against Calgary.
Rest of the schedule: Jets at Blue Jackets (7 p.m. EST; (TSN-3; FS-O); Senators at Blues (8 p.m. EST; RDS, TSN5, FS-MW); Oilers at Stars (8:30 p.m. ESt; SNW, FS-SW); Avalanche at Coyotes (9 p.m. EST; TVA, ALT2, FS-A); Devils at Canucks (10 p.m. EST; MSG+, SNP)
What you missed last night
• Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury received sweet congratulations for his 300th win.
• The Islanders, who are tied atop the Metro Division with Pittsburgh, have won nine of 10 for the first time since 1989–90. New York is also 5-0 in shootouts this season, riding a seven-game win streak in the skills session, dating back to April 11.
• Steve Mason's 46 saves in Philadelphia's 1–0 loss to the Isles were the second-most ever for a Flyers goalie in a shutout, behind Darren Jensen’s 48 in a win over St. Louis on Jan. 25, 1986.
• The Wild continue to own Florida, running their record against the Pantehrs to 11-1-2 since Nov. 29, 2001.
• There were too many great eulogies penned in honor of Pat Quinn to list them all here, but this one from Cam Cole might be the best of the lot.
• The Flames are privately saying that they could announce plans for a new arena in a matter of weeks. That might come as a surprise to the city’s mayor, who seems to be in no hurry to help the team make this dream come true.
• Edmonton’s netminders are “taking it personally” after goalie coach Frederic Chabot was scapegoated for the team's lousy defensive performance.
• Here's what Vancouver president Trevor Linden means when he says that he wants the Canucks to have “the best human performance department in pro sports.”