Marc-Andre FleuryThis weekend, the most formidable player in the short history of the Vegas Golden Knights, will kick off the most iconic regular season game they have ever played.
“He deserves to start this game,” said Vegas coach Peter DeBoer.
Fleury will lead the Golden Knights onto the ice for the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors against the Colorado Avalanche at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Stateline, Nevada (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN1, SN, TVAS) on Saturday. It’s the first outdoor game for the Golden Knights, and the goalkeeper who started their first regular season, Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Stanley Cup Finals games will be on the net.
Fleury has started 164 of the Golden Knights’ 249 regular season games and has 98 of their 143 wins since they started playing in the 2017/18 season when they reached the finals.
“His influence on this franchise from the day they had this [2017 NHL] Expansion draft was immeasurable, “said DeBoer of the 36-year-old, who won the Stanley Cup three times with the Pittsburgh Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017) in his 17th NHL season.” I think he has the perspective. A lot of people fail to realize that they are in the twilight of their careers or tend to ignore them and may not look back and cherish moments so much, but talking to him I think he has that appreciation and appreciation for the moment where this is a special game and day. “
Fleury (7-2-0) has an average of 1.56 goals against average and a saving of 0.937 percent this season, and ranks first and second among goalkeepers in the NHL with five or more starts. He has started five games in a row Robin Lehner fails due to an upper body injury and is 3-2-0 with a shutout, a GAA of 1.81 and a percentage savings of 0.931. Fleury allowed three goals in 55 shots (0.945 percent fewer) in two consecutive games against Colorado on Sunday and Tuesday.
“This is a stepping stone for our organization and I think we are starting to become known as a destination in the league,” said the Golden Knights captain Mark Stone said. “Everyone wants to play for Vegas. He was part of the deliberation and one of the main reasons behind creating this culture. He’s excited to play. … He played amazingly.”
Fleury has played two outdoor NHL games, both for the Penguins: the 2011 NHL Winter Classic, a 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh; and the 2014 NHL Stadium Series, a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field in Chicago.
This game isn’t just about Fleury or his start in Vegas’ first regular game of the regular season.
It’s more about the scene, the scenic setting, the first time the NHL has played a game on a golf course, with the beauty of Mother Nature taking the place of fans due to the coronavirus pandemic. A total of 1,622,081 fans participated in the last 30 NHL outdoor games.
This event, which ends the next day with the Philadelphia Flyers battling the Boston Bruins at the Honda NHL Outdoors on Sunday (2:00 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, SN1, TVAS), is for the television, with Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada in the background.
“The area speaks for itself,” said the avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “You can see that in pictures, but it still doesn’t do it justice. Once you’re on the ice, it’s probably the purest form of hockey.”
On Saturday, the purity will be bottled in a game between two teams who this week showed how good they can be and how close they are to the Honda West Division.
Vegas and Colorado were picked by many to finish in order 1-2 in the division. The Golden Knights have played 14 games, Avalanche 13, and they are the first and second percentages in the West. Vegas (10-3-1) is 0.750, Colorado (8-4-1) is 0.654.
The Golden Knights beat the avalanche 1-0 at home on Sunday. Two nights later, Colorado won 3-2 on the same ice Nazem Kadri |The goal with 41 seconds in the third period.
The shots on goal in the two games were 55-53 in Colorado’s favor. The total shot attempts were 120-112 in Vegas’ favor.
“It’s been two highly competitive games and I think you saw a bit of everything, the speed and talent of both teams, some great goalkeepers in both games,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar. “We have two more against her (in a four-game set that ends in Colorado on Monday) and this one is obviously in a great setting.”
The Golden Knights got healthier on Tuesday with the return of the defender Shea Theodorewho missed three games with an upper body injury.
On Saturday Landeskog and defender Samuel Girard are expected to return and defenders Cale Makar will be a playful decision. Landeskog, a striker, and Girard missed the two games against Vegas on the NHL COVID-19 log list. Makar had an upper body injury.
“They bring their captain back into the line-up and he brings leadership, skill, grit as an all-round player and Makar is one of the best defenders in the league,” said Stone. “So, obviously you need to address these guys a little bit more. … They’ll get a jump on it.”
Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon said the avalanche recovery should give an even better indication of how the teams fit together, how close they are, and who may be ahead.
“It’s really hard to play against them,” said MacKinnon. “They have high-end skills. There are no weaknesses. I’m sure we’ll play them in the playoffs at some point and it will be a tough series.”