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Coaches Room

Fleury, Lundqvist set standard for young goalies in 2010s

Marcoux says All-Decade players were prime examples of leadership, work ethic

by David Marcoux / Special to NHL.com

The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2019-20 season 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. David Marcoux, Rob Zettler, Rob Cookson and Randy Carlyle will take turns providing insight. 

In this edition, Marcoux, former goaltending coach for the Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames, looks at Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who on Jan. 25 was named the goalie on the NHL All-Decade Team for 2010-19, and New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was named on the second team. He also discusses what goalies might make an early bid to claim that honor for this decade. 

It's tough to argue with Marc-Andre Fleury being named the best goalie of the previous decade. 

His accomplishments from 2010-19 include two Stanley Cup titles with the Pittsburgh Penguins (2016, 2017) and helping the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018. Fleury was first in wins (322), third in starts (543) and fifth in shutouts (43).

Henrik Lundqvist was the face of the New York Rangers for years although his role is diminishing this season. He played in four NHL All-Star Games in that span and won at least 30 games eight times.

Video: DAL@NYR: Lundqvist moves across to rob Seguin

I think when you talk about the decade and longevity, you have to look at the leadership each one brings. Much like their on-ice styles, they are different in how they lead.

In both cases, however, it's effective.

Fleury's leadership comes from bringing the fun to the rink every day. He's out there laughing and playing pranks on his teammates, always showing them that he's a young boy at heart showing up at the rink every day. You get the sense he needs to have fun with his teammates around him in order to have the most success.

Through it all, he's a total pro. He wasn't happy when he was losing the No. 1 job to Matt Murray in Pittsburgh during their back-to-back title runs in 2016 and 2017, but he handled it with class and took the high road. 

He got a new lease on life, a new team and a new hockey home when he went to Vegas. His lighthearted, what-me-worry attitude helped take the Golden Knights on a Cinderella journey in 2018 before they fell to the Washington Capitals in five games.

Lundqvist is a polar opposite of that when it comes to how he leads. 

Lundqvist brings a seriousness and professionalism to the game that is admirable. That quality pushes the people around him to ensure that they too are never lacking in preparation. Not when you see this guy every day at morning skates and how he meticulously prepares and is so dedicated to his routines. It's bound to rub off.

One thing that I find interesting is that we are talking about the top goalies of the decade and each is an average puck-handler in an era where it's such a coveted skill. It speaks to how good each have been at stopping pucks, not passing them.

Where they make up for that is their hockey IQs. Age can sometimes fray reflexes, but Fleury and Lundqvist remain two of the best at anticipating plays.

In Fleury's case, is there a better poke-checking goalie in the NHL? We know that particular technique is not frequently found in Lundqvist's toolbox.

Video: OTT@VGK: Fleury comes out of crease to stuff Tierney

Fleury's a flamboyant character in his crease and always seems to have a sense of the acrobatic. Lundqvist plays a more positional game. Or, as some coaches refer to it, a quieter game.

Each one stuck with the technique that made them successful. It's a lesson that should be digested by young goalies dreaming of being in the NHL one day. Find what works for you and go with it.

Having touched on the past decade, let's look at the one we've just entered. It's early on, sure, but who are some of the early candidates to be All-Decade First Team down the road?

For me, Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who is 25, is the leading candidate right now. 

From having seen Vasilevskiy play for Russia at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship in Calgary and Edmonton, you knew he could be something special. His size (6-foot-3, 216 pounds), the flexibility, the hockey IQ and now he's understanding that he's got a book on shooters. He's only getting better.

I see him being the next Fleury, the next Carey Price, the next Lundqvist. He's almost there now. Winning the Stanley Cup would help, although Price and Lundqvist are still chasing that elusive first ring.

Ilya Samsonov of the Washington Capitals intrigues me. He seems to be coming into his own. He still needs to show he can be a full-time No. 1 goalie in this league, but he has all the tools.

It should be fun watching how it plays out in the next 10 years.

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