The Vegas Golden Knights finished a six-game road trip Thursday evening in San Jose with a rousing 5-3 comeback win over the Sharks, giving the team 36 victories this season so far. With 28 games left on the regular-season schedule—including 17 on the friendly home ice of T-Mobile Arena—the NHL's expansion darlings are in very good shape for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
In the Pacific Division, the Golden Knights are in first place with their 36-14-4 record. That's 12 points ahead of both the Sharks and the Calgary Flames, tied for second place with identical 28-18-8 marks. The top two teams in the division secure home-ice advantage for the first round of the postseason, while Vegas also has a three-point lead of both the Central Division leaders (Nashville, Winnipeg) for the best record in the Western Conference.
The Golden Knights want to be at home as much as possible in the playoffs, as the team has a 19-3-2 record at T-Mobile Arena. But the Vegas boys have been no slouches on the road, either, posting a conference-high 17 wins away from Sin City as well. One of the big reasons for this tremendous level of success this year has been goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
With the victory in San Jose last night, Fleury now has 391 career wins in the regular season. He is 16-5-2 with the Golden Knights this year, despite missing a few months earlier in the season with a concussion. His 2.03 goals-against average is the best of his career, and Fleury's current .934 save percentage is a career high right now, too.
The three-time Stanley Cup champion goalie turned 33 in November, and he is under contract with Vegas through next season. Those 391 wins put Fleury at No. 13 on the all-time NHL wins list, and he has a good chance to get to 400 wins before this year is over. Only 12 goaltenders in the history of the league have reached that plateau, and Fleury is far from done playing hockey.
For argument's sake, imagine Fleury plays an injury-free season in 2018-19 for the Golden Knights and racks up another 30 wins. That could put him somewhere around 430 victories by the time he's 34 and looking for perhaps his final NHL contract. That would place him in the Top 8 all-time for goalie wins, and it's hard to imagine a scenario where Vegas doesn't choose to keep Fleury in a Golden Knights sweater for the rest of his career.
Martin Brodeur (691 wins) and Patrick Roy (551) are out of reach for Fleury on the all-time list, but Fleury could get very close to 500 wins by staying in good shape and playing well for another few years in Vegas on his final NHL contract. Right now, Ed Belfour (484) is third on the all-time list, followed by Roberto Luongo (459).
Consider this: Luongo will be 39 in April, and he's the backup goalie in Florida right now. It's hard to see him climbing the list to pass Belfour, although currently Henrik Lundqvist—the New York Rangers' longtime netminder—has 426 victories and is ascending the charts still. The Swedish star will be 36 in March, and he is slowing down a bit. However, it's not probable that Fleury can catch and surpass Lundqvist at this point.
What the Golden Knights have to consider, realistically, is they have a goaltender who could end up in the Top 5 all-time for NHL wins. Fleury can join Brodeur, Roy, Lundqvist and Belfour in that select group while wearing a Vegas sweater if the organization wants to make it happen, and there's something to be said for an expansion team putting an icon out on the ice in front of a roaring home crowd, isn't there?
In the pursuit of legendary status, Fleury next takes the ice in Sin City on Sunday at 5:00 pm against the Philadelphia Flyers.
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