The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs by one of four former NHL coaches and assistants who will turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher. Jim Corsi, David Marcoux, Paul MacLean and Joe Mullen will take turns providing insight.
In this edition, Marcoux, former goaltending coach for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Calgary Flames, looks at the amazing story that is Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
With four shutouts and two series wins through the first two rounds of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Fleury and the Vegas Golden Knights are headed to the Western Conference Final.
It's been an amazing story in the NHL this season, and now in the postseason.
I watched Fleury in Game 6 against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday, a 3-0 win that clinched the second-round series. The game confirmed to me what's been going on with the Golden Knights, that they have full trust in Fleury back there.
[RELATED: Fleury shines again for Golden Knights in Game 6 | Complete Golden Knights vs. Sharks series coverage]
Vegas' first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings was intriguing to me. I saw a Fleury who was trying to out-compete, out-speed and out-battle Jonathan Quick of the Kings. It was like, "Whatever you can do, I can do better." You could tell Fleury was on a mission in that series.
I've watched Fleury since he played for Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and I was coaching in Hull.
Fleury was a good goalie then, but it was hard to know if was going to be really good. I certainly remember thinking, though, that he was a diamond in the rough.
He also was tested mentally at a young age, from banking a puck off a teammate and costing Canada a shot at the gold medal in the championship game of the 2004 IIHF World Junior Championship to facing 32.1 shots per game in 21 games as an 18-year-old NHL rookie in 2003-04 after the Penguins selected him with the first pick of the 2003 NHL Draft.
But Fleury got past all of it and stuck with it.
The story this season also is wonderful because of what Fleury went through in the two previous seasons in Pittsburgh. Matt Murray had emerged as the Penguins future in goal and having two quality goalies like that certainly had to create some distractions.
Video: VGK@SJS, Gm6: Fleury discusses Vegas' Game 6 win
There are no goalie controversies this year with Fleury. He's the guy everybody trusts in Vegas.
I think Fleury has exhibited some leadership skills in Vegas. I can guarantee you they're asking him how to play certain scenarios in the defensive zone. From what I see, I think he's told them that he would rather the defensemen get out of the way and let him see the puck, or at least to box out and then do their best to get out of the way.
There is traffic near the net in every NHL game. Fleury is managing it well. He is searching for pucks and he is battling to find pucks. There's luck involved in the process sometimes, but he's competitive and he's challenging shooters, and even if he allows a juicy rebound to the weak side he's so quick to get over there because he knows where that rebound is going before anybody else does.
He is clearly in that mode of having so much fun playing in this environment right now. It's not about the pressure of winning, but simply about playing and competing. I don't see him overthinking anything and some of that probably comes with maturity.
Having played 125 career games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he knows what to expect, including that he'll get bumped sometimes during a game. But he's ready for it and it doesn't cause him to lose any focus.
Experience also has taught him to limit playing the puck. Although he has worked on this important skill, it never will be a strength. Instead he works on his strengths, which is being aggressive on the shooter.
Video: VGK@SJS, Gm6: Fleury makes a pair of strong pad stops
In Fleury, who's 33, I still see a young kid at heart. I don't see fear, just someone who is enjoying the whole Vegas experience with his family, someone who has been rewarded for being a good teammate when he was with the Penguins. Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford has gone out of his way to highlight what a good teammate Fleury was during his final seasons in Pittsburgh.
So what we've learned about Fleury is that he's a good person as well as a competitive guy. For him to advance further in these playoffs, maybe even to win the Stanley Cup again, would be completely brilliant.
Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2 Coverage
Lightning vs. Bruins
Capitals vs. Penguins
Predators vs. Jets
Golden Knights vs. Sharks