All posts by Cody Flavell

I am an avid fan of all major and college sports teams throughout the Pittsburgh area.

Top 10 Saves Of Marc-Andre Fleury’s Career

Marc-Andre Fleury is now a Vegas Golden Knight. He has had an illustrious career in Pittsburgh as he’s been a part of three different Cup teams.

It’s only fitting to set aside some time to compile a list of, what I believe, are Fleury’s top 10 saves in a Penguins uniform. We start with number ten…

No. 10- Chef Fleury With The Stop

There isn’t a lot to this save. Flyers defenseman Matt Carle winds up for a slap shot outside his offensive zone. It hits Flower right in the chest. He then takes the puck and flips on his stick a few times before gloving it down to be frozen. I included this because it happened in Philadelphia where Fleury has had demons before. It was cool for once to see the Philly crowd booing him as opposed to getting on him for allowing a goal in the building.

No. 9- Kubi-NO

This is ridiculous. Fleury moves from right to left to shut down the Lightning’s Paul Kubina. He spins while kicking his pads up in the air. He gloves it after the pad hits it. It’s too hard to explain. Just enjoy.

No. 8- Don’t Back Down

As Daniel Alfredsson bares down on Fleury during a shootout, Fleury squares him up. Alfredsson should’ve lifted the puck but instead beats Fleury…until he doesn’t. Fleury rolls over on his back and gets his glove hand down before the puck crosses the line. It’s beautiful. So poetic.

No. 7- Saving Blake

Maple Leafs forward Jason Blake had already buried two goals on the night. He just about had a guaranteed third when he carried the puck around Fleury. Somehow, someway, Fleury dived back across the crease and got his glove out to absolutely rob Blake of that third goal. This is number seven. I promise the list is getting even better.

No. 6- No Luck For Atkinson

I’m a huge fan of this goal because of Cam Atkinson being a Columbus Blue Jacket. Fleury softly let the puck squeak through his six hole as he couldn’t hold it to his side. He turned around alertly and fell back swiping the puck away with his stick as it was inches from crossing the goal line. Fleury is a savage.

No. 5- Setting The Tone

Just one piece of the multiple playoff flops by the Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin is given a breakaway in the first three minutes of game seven. Fleury, up to the task, calmly follows Ovechkin’s every move and flashes the leather to keep it at 0-0. The Penguins went on to win the game and the Cuo in the following round.

No. 4- Green With Envy

This one is a nifty play on all accounts. Defenseman Mike Green displays some silky mitts by deking in and out of potential defenders. He even had Fleury fooled. Somehow, Fleury reached back and stopped it before Green was able to dispose of it into the back of the net and win the game in overtime. Green’s face went right into his hands in disbelief. Fleury was all smiles. Classic Fleury. Classic Capitals.

No. 3- Flying Fleury

You’ll all remember this one. As the puck flips into the air, Fleury flies backwards and amazingly knocks the puck out of danger while spinning. The puck likely would’ve hit the ground and spun in due to the way the puck was flipping in mid-air. Had Fleury hit the puck any later, it probably would’ve been knocked in. Quality save by your favorite Flower.

No. 2- “OH MY GOODNESS!”

This is my favorite save that Fleury has ever made. Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson had just about done what they wanted on the play and Karlsson’s shot looked destined to get to the back of the net. I’m not sure how he did it, but Fleury’s glove stopped it. The puck never crossed the line and, even more amazingly, Fleury’s arm stayed in his socket. It’s probably my favorite save he’s ever made. Number one should be obvious…

No. 1- Lord Stanley, Lord Stanley, Bring Me The Brandy

I don’t think anything will ever have made Fleury more iconic than this. The initial save on Brian Rafalski through traffic was impressive enough. The ensuing save on Nicklas Lidstrom? Legendary. The Penguins hadn’t won a Cup since 1992. That save there was the dagger in the Red Wings attempt to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Something the Penguins did these past two seasons.

Hopefully you enjoyed the list. Obviously, there were other saves I wanted to put on but were omitted. I leave you with this: Marc-Andre Fleury, you will always be my favorite goalie and human being. While the Penguins are in great hands with Matt Murray, you are part of the puzzle that has helped keep this ship afloat. You will be missed greatly.

Offseason Player Grades: Sidney Crosby

Statistics (Regular Season)

75 GP, 44 G, 45 A, 89 PTS, +17 +/-, 24 PIM

Statistics (Postseason)

24 GP, 8 G, 19 A, 27 PTS, +4 +/-, 10 PIM

Player Grade (A+)

He proved again why he’s the MVP of the NHL. He had torrid paces throughout the season that left people shaking their heads wondering how he does what he does. He got his 1,000th career NHL point. He helped power a second consecutive Stanley Cup to the city of Pittsburgh. He won his second straight Conn Smythe. Crosby, yet again, exceeded expectations in captaining his team to victory.

Review

Sidney Crosby was right back at it again in 2016-17′. After a slow start the previous season, Crosby was able to turn on the jets and finish the season in an outstanding matter. This season was a little different.

From the outset, you could tell Crosby was going to dominate. Starting with his brilliance in the World Cup of Hockey where him and Brad Marchand teamed up to help lift Canada to the gold medal. He didn’t stop there. He finished second in scoring and won the Conn Smythe as the playoff’s MVP. Most importantly, he won his third career Stanley Cup.

Despite missing the first six games of the season, he continued the dominance by going on a torrid scoring pace to begin the year. He had 26 goals in 31 games at the onset. He did go on a spell where he was struggling to find the back of the net. He finished with 44 goals, which led the league.

He notched his 1,000th career point on a goal assisted by longtime linemate Chris Kunitz in a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets. He went a long stretch of the playoffs without a goal but won the MVP and the Cup. It’s safe to say that Crosby’s season was pretty successful.

Preview

As Crosby heads into next season, the Penguins should be very encouraged with where he and they are headed.

The leader of this team practically dictates how the collective unit will do. Crosby exemplifies that. His captain qualities as well as being the league’s best player really make the Penguins a top team in the league.

He’ll likely be right back where he was this year: He’ll, of course, be centering the top line but whether he will be back with Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary remains to be seen. While they played together over the final two games of the season, the Sid and the Kids line was split for some time in the playoffs, too. It seems Guentzel will definitely be on the line as he fell one goal short of tying Dino Ciccarelli‘s record for goal’s scored by a rookie in the playoffs.

Conclusion

Crosby put to rest any doubt that whether Connor McDavid had passed him as the league’s best player. He had one of the more dominant season’s he’s ever had. He dealt with a concussion, missing the first six games of the season. That didn’t stop him from scoring 44 goals and trailing McDavid pretty closely for the majority of the season.

Crosby wasn’t going to be denied in his quest to be the first team to repeat in the salary cap era. People want to play with Crosby because he wins. That was proven this season when the whole team reassembled to go on a quest that they won’t soon forget.

Derrick Pouliot Should Get A Chance

Reading this title may have given many of you a few aneurisms. By now, the Penguins have given defenseman Derrick Pouliot ample chance to prove himself at the NHL level, right? To be quite honest, I don’t think he’s been given ample chances.

Sure, he’s been up and down from the AHL to the NHL and back again multiple times. It seems that anytime Pouliot makes one mistake, it’s magnified and he’s immeadiately benched or sent down. With a young, steadily developing “prospect”, if you will, the worst thing to do is mess with any potential confidence he has.

The Pittsburgh Pirates faced a similar situation early in their season.

Top prospect, Tyler Glasnow, was given the opportunity to be in the Opening Day rotation. His struggles with his control issues were a well-known fact going into the year. Despite a few rough starts, Glasnow began to find himself a bit. He then tailed off and was sent back to the minor leagues. The Penguins need to attempt a similar approach.

Pouliot has served his time in the AHL and has looked good doing it. Although his NHL transition seems to be rough at times, how is he going to get any better continuously being sent up and down?

Thus brings me to my argument: Derrick Pouliot should be in the lineup on Opening Night next year.

Pouliot isn’t going to get better at the NHL level without playing there. Mike Sullivan needs to guarantee Pouliot a spot in the top six to open the year so Pouliot can readily focus on what he needs to do to be a quality and serviceable player. Sullivan has yet to make any player around him worse so Sullivan’s guidance can only help Pouliot.

His struggles to play defense at times can be overcome by the offensive capabilities that Pouliot brings to the table. That’s something that can’t be overlooked.

He scored on his first NHL shot against the Florida Panthers in 2014. He can really skate with the puck and has puck moving abilities that the Penguins sorely could use.

The Penguins used the eighth overall pick on him in 2012. They expect a lot out of him and they can get it if they actually decide to play him.

The Penguins are likely going to need one defenseman when the season begins. It’s safe to assume that Trevor Daley‘s best days might be behind him and that the Penguins will allow him to walk on July 1st. With guys like Nick Bonino, Brian Dumoulin, and Justin Schultz needing contracts, the Penguins will have an in-house defensive option or two if they’d like to let Daley go elsewhere.

That would leave the likely pairings to be as follows heading into the season:

Dumoulin-Letang

Cole-Schultz

Maatta-Pouliot

The obvious chemistry of the top four defensemen can’t be understated. The Maatta-Pouliot pairing may look scary, but it’s got the potential to be very effective.

The only way to really grow Pouliot’s game is to let him work out his kinks at the NHL level under Sullivan and defensive coach Sergei Gonchar‘s guidance. He’s shown flashes of being an offensive juggernaut and could really be a great boost to the second power play if in fact Daley signs with another team.

Unless the Penguins go out and sign somebody, your other in-house options include Chad Ruhwedel, Cameron Gaunce, or Frankie Corrado. They’re all perennial seventh defenseman that you can find on the free agency wire. Pouliot is a former first round draft choice with the potential to be just that. He should be guaranteed a spot on the Opening Night roster next year. I don’t think there is much of a question about that.

The question is, how much of a chance will Sullivan give him and how does he respond?

Losing Fleury Is What’s Best For Pittsburgh

Not too often do you hear that a team would do itself a favor by letting go of a quality player for absolutely nothing. The Penguins case is actually a little different heading into the Vegas expansion draft next week.

By now, its widely known that Marc-Andre Fleury waived his no-movement clause that is in his contract for the purpose of the draft. Vegas is very likely to take Fleury and his wife has reportedly been looking at some homes in Vegas as well as school districts for their kids.

A few weeks ago, it seemed as Fleury had boosted his trade value by his carrying of the team through the playoffs’ first two rounds. Calgary and Buffalo had been reported suitors but those rumors have since died down and it seems Vegas will not flip Fleury after taking him in the draft.Fleury has been an integral part of this team’s success since he was drafted in 2003. It’s never an ideal situation when an expansion draft like this arises. While it looks as though the Penguins will lose Fleury for nothing, not all is bad.

Had the Penguins agreed on a trade partner for The Flower, even though it could still happen, they would have likely lost a key top four defenseman from the previous season.

Due to expansion draft rules, you can only protect seven forwards, three defenseman, and a goalie. Fleury’s no-movement clause had to be waived or the Penguins would’ve taken the chance of losing Matt Murray, something they don’t want to happen.

With Kris Letang also having a no-movement clause in his contract, the Penguins would be forced to protect two of Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, Brian Dumoulin and Ian Cole. The four of those players are a bit more valuable than losing Fleury for some draft pick off of another squad.

The rules of the expansion draft state that if there is a trade by Vegas with another team, that player the Golden Knights acquired would be the “draft” choice for Vegas. Thus, that team wouldn’t lose anyone else.

It looks like Flower will just be drafted by Vegas so it won’t matter. But if the Golden Knights do send a draft pick to Pittsburgh, that would be considered Vegas’ draft choice.

Fleury heading to Vegas would also take $5.75 million off the books, something the Penguins will need greatly if they want to have a shot at a championship again next year. They can use that money towards the resigning of key players

So while the emotional connection to Marc-Andre Fleury will likely be moved to a new team, the Penguins will be better off assuming Fleury is traded for or selected for nothing by Vegas.

COLUMN: The Non-Move That Won The Pens A Cup

Let me start by saying that Sidney Crosby is deserving of the Conn Smythe. I do believe it should’ve gone to Evgeni Malkin but Crosby was just about as equally deserving.

But let’s make no mistake about it, had it been possible to give the Conn Smythe to a split tandem of Pittsburgh goaltenders, there’s no doubt in my mind they were the club’s most valuable players.

Without Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins don’t beat Washington. They probably squeak by Columbus with an average backup goalie because they were simply the better team. The game seven shutout of Washington in the second round was about as disheartening to a fan base as the inevitable Fleury trade will be for this one. He carried that momentum two games into the Ottawa series, then things went south.

A bad nine minutes in game three, where he allowed four goals on nine shots, will soon turn into the final outing that Fleury had as a Pittsburgh Penguin. Let me remind you, Fleury is considered the back up.

So, when the starter got his chance, he wasn’t going to look back.

Matt Murray was very good over the final four and a half games of the Eastern Conference Finals. He faced barrages from the Senators and battled tooth and nail with embattled Senators goalie Craig Anderson for a victory in seven games.

Murray took on the Cinderella story from Nashville. He opposed Pekka Rinne, a leader for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Finals, and thoroughly played better. The Penguins made Rinne look silly on several occasions. Although it seemed that mid-series that the Predators had figured Murray out, Mike Sullivan‘s confidence didn’t waiver. He stuck it out with Murray who repaid the coach with, not one, but TWO shutouts in the final two games of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Murray is still considered a rookie. He is the only player in NHL history to win two Cups as a rookie. While this comes on sort of a technicality, it doesn’t downplay the magnitude of him spearheading two Stanley Cup championships. Who’s to say the Penguins would or wouldn’t be in this situation today had Murray not hurt his groin in the pregame of the game one of the Blue Jackets series?

But that wasn’t the case. Fleury stepped in and did an admirable job. One that Tristan Jarry simply wouldn’t have been able to do.

Credit Jim Rutherford for that one.

As trade deadline day approached, an unsettling feeling grew within the stomach of Marc-Andre Fleury. He was drafted by the Penguins in 2003 and has played his entire career to this point with Pittsburgh. The rumors ran rampant that he’d be moved to another team as his trade value seemed to be plummeting ever so quickly after his truthfully horrible regular season.

Rutherford surprised everyone and stuck to his guns saying that it’s never a bad thing to have two goalies of the caliber that Murray and Fleury are. Rutherford wants to keep both goalies. It’s practically impossible at this point.

The impending Vegas Golden Knights franchise will be drafting in a few weeks to assemble their team for the upcoming year and Fleury is undoubtedly on their radar. After his playoff performance, he’ll be on a few other teams’ radar.

As I mentioned before, the Penguins don’t beat Washington without Fleury. It doesn’t happen. He was spot on against Alex Ovechkin and outdueled Braden Holtby with no reason to look over his shoulder.

Rutherford not moving Fleury is a credit to Rutherford’s intelligence as a general manager. It’s a huge reason why the Penguins repeated as Stanley Cup champions and why they have a legitmate shot to win yet again in 2018.

Killer Instinct Key To Penguins Playoff Run

Heading in to a potential Stanley Cup clinching game, the Pittsburgh Penguins have proven an old cliche completely wrong. 

The saying “we need to play 60 minutes” is, and always has been, utter nonsense.The 2016-2017 playoff Penguins have been remarkably inconsistent for a team making it all the way to the Final. Even taking out the surprise Columbus Blue Jackets in 5 games in Round 1, Pittsburgh wasn’t the better team over 60 minutes for more than 2 of them.

They are also, however, remarkably resilient. They have that killer instinct where they know when to turn it on. Every team has had their moments where they’ve made the Penguins look mediocre. Really bad even.

They’ve had more than their share of frustrations. They’ve had a struggling power play. They’ve had lacklustre goaltending. They have had slumping stars. They’ve had them sometimes all at the same time. Opposing team supporters are almost right when they say the Penguins have no business being in the Final.

Yet here they are, one win away from repeating as Stanley Cup champions. 

No matter what happens over the next game or maybe two, you can’t possibly believe it’s dumb luck anymore.

You can’t possibly deny the leadership abilities of Sidney Crosby, or the complete game he plays. You can’t possibly still believe Evgeni Malkin is only a good player being carried. You can no longer believe they just happened to luck into solid rookie depth players who have miraculously all decided to play above their potential consistently for two seasons and two playoffs. 

What you have to accept is this team is everything the “blind supporters” believe it is. 

The last team to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions are the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings and that’s very important. When you look at another very complete player in captain Steve Yzerman, you see another leader who sacrificed offensive dominance for team success. You see another group of overachieving third and fourth liners who played out of their minds.

You can look at that and say Yzerman was just fortunate to have played with a bunch of future hall of Famers. Or you could understand following a leader like that showed them what it took to be Hall of Famers.

In a decade or so, time will tell how many Hall of Famers or long term career contributors there are on these 2016 and 2017 Penguins teams, but at that time I also hope we don’t forget they started as just bunch of nobody rookies playing follow the leader.

COLUMN: Sit Back, Relax, And Enjoy

In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators are tied at two games a piece heading into game five of the best of seven series. And yet, people are still unsatisfied.

Walk around downtown and you hear the murmurs of negativity. Talk to your co-worker and it’s likely they want off with Matt Murray‘s head. Heck, call your family members and I’m sure panic has begun to set in amongst the household.

The Penguins first won the Stanley Cup back in 1991 and then did it again in 92’. They won in 2009 and again last season. They lost to the Detroit Red Wings in 2008. 1991 was exactly 26 years ago. The Penguins have been to six Stanley Cups in that time frame. They have participated in 23% of the Stanley Cup Finals since 1991. Only the Detroit Red Wings have appeared in as many the Penguins.

That’s an important thing to ponder when you look at how successful the Penguins as a franchise have been. So how does that in any way, shape, or form affect the 2016-17′ Penguins? Ask Mike Sullivan.

Calm, cool, collected. Three very good adjectives to describe one of the best things to happen to the Penguins since Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. The Penguins have yet to lose a playoff series under Sullivan and have faced this much adversity on many occasions.

As one of my friends today put it: “This might be the best era of Penguins hockey we’ve ever seen”.

He isn’t referring to the 26 years that have elapsed since the Penguins first championship. He’s speaking on behalf of what the next 3-5 years could potentially hold.

The Penguins are back in the same Stanley Cup Finals that they won last season and took an early two game lead after the first two games played at PPG Paints Arena. They’re the first team to participate in back to back Stanley Cups since…themselves and Detroit. The Blackhawks 3-in-6 “dynasty” that we talk about could easily be topped by this team. Don’t count it out. They’ve got a chance to be 2-in-2.

And what’s this goalie debate you speak of? Who really cares if we are being honest. This is the best goalie tandem that the Penguins have ever had and will ever have. Unfortunately, the salary cap and the expansion draft will likely force the Penguins to have to break up this tandem.

In his darkest of days, no one has been more supportive of Marc-Andre Fleury than Murray. Fleury spent all of last season’s playoffs, sans the loss to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals, riding the bench after returning from his concussion. He played these playoffs until a 4 goals on 9 shots performance in game three of this season’s Eastern Conference Finals got him yanked from the crease.

Murray, who began this season on the injured reserve, has been stellar this postseason outside of his game four performance that has the Murray/Fleury debate rearing its ugly head.

Just let it be. Instead of beig opposed to one of these outstanding goalies, appreciate the fact that it’s very likely that the Penguins don’t make it to this point had Jim Rutherford shipped away Fleury amidst the trade deadline rumors.

It seems as though the Penguins finally will have to get rid of part of the “core four” when Fleury likely parts ways this offseason. That era has brought its ups and downs. Can you even fathom what this era will do?

Not only will Crosby, Malkin, and Letang rest assuredly be in a Penguins uniform next season, add the likes of Jake Guentzel for a full season. Even further down that 3-5 year path, talented prospects like Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese will be showcasing their NHL talents.

I could name plenty of young guys who we’ve watched over the past two postseasons do magical things for the Penguins. They’ve never had this much speed or balance or depth or any part of the magical formula that wins teams hockey games this day in age.

If the Penguins can win game five and take a 3-2 stronghold on the series, can they win one of the final two and take home Lord Stanley.

That would mean that with all the talent they’ve got, they’d have four years to match or even better the “3-in-6” standard set by Chicago. They’ll have better stars and a better goalie than Chicago did to do the trick.

Seriously, quit worrying about the little things with this team. They’ve done nothing but prove you wrong, anyway. Relax, grab a pepsi or coke, watch this team play their way one game closer to that final victory to win them a second consecutive Stanley Cup Finals.