May 20, 2018: When the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Winnipeg Jets in game 5 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals, Marc Andre Fleury became the 1st goalie in NHL history to play in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals with different teams.
2017 Finals wasn’t surprising…
Getting to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017 wasn’t a huge surprise for Marc Andre Fleury and the Pittsburgh Penguins considering they won the Stanley Cup in 2016.
The Pens finished the 2016-17 season 2nd in the Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference, and entire NHL behind the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals.
Thanks to a standout performance from then-rookie Jake Guentzel, the Pens won the opening round of the playoffs 4-1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
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The second and third rounds of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs were different beasts, both going 7 games.
Thanks to goals by Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist and stellar goaltending from Marc Andre Fleury, the Pens beat the Caps 2-0 in game 7 of the second round.
Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators had a bit more theatrics, with Chris Kunitz scoring in double-overtime goal to send the Pens to their second consecutive Stanley Cup Finals.
And as we all know, the Pens went on to win their second consecutive Stanley Cup in 2017 against the Nashville Predators.
By this point, Fleury held all of the Pittsburgh Penguins goalie records: most games played, wins, saves, shutouts, and Stanley Cups.
But thanks to the emergence of a younger less expensive Stanley Cup-winning goaltender in Matt Murray, everyone knew Marc Andre Fleury’s time in Pittsburgh was over.
In the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, the Vegas Golden Knights selected Marc Andre Fleury as their franchise goaltender.
Golden Knights GM George McPhee drafted “aggressively” in order to create a contender in Vegas sooner than later.
But no one thought they’d be such a contender so soon…
The inaugural Vegas Golden Knights won 8 out of their first 9 games and ended the regular season with a 51-24-7 record, good for 109 points and 1st place in the Pacific Division. Not bad for an expansion franchise!
Fleury and the Golden Knights made quick work of the Los Angeles Kings, sweeping their first-round opponent in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including a 1-0 shutout game 1 victory.
The San Jose Sharks proved to be a more formidable opponent in the second round, winning games 2 and 4 but proved unworthy of the task in games 5 and 6.
The fact that the expansion Golden Knights even earned a spot in the 2018 Western Conference Finals in their first season as a franchise is remarkable.
But the fact they won their third-round series with the Winnipeg Jets in only 5 games to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season as a franchise is simply unbelievable.
And by only allowing 1 goal and winning game 5, Marc Andre Fleury became the first goalie in NHL history to play in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals with different teams.
Of course, the Washington Capitals defeated the Golden Knights for the 2018 Stanley Cup.
That said, Marc Andre Fleury played phenomenal throughout the 2018 NHL Playoffs, winning 13 games while posting a .927 save percentage and 4 shutouts, proving to be the foundational piece George McPhee hoped he had drafted.