Marc-Andre Fleury’s Series Steal and the Final Eight’s Elite

Marc Andre Fleury
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 17: Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Vegas Golden Knights follows play around the net during the second period against the Los Angeles Kings in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on April 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is officially over. It went by quickly compared to recent years, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t dramatic storylines. From the dominance of Sidney Crosby against the Flyers to Marc-Andre Fleury stoning the Kings, the NHL’s elite eight will need to rely on their star players to keep their Stanley Cup dream alive. 

Crosby’s Dominant First Round, Fleury’s Series Steal and the Final Eight’s Elite

The pressure and drama of the NHL playoffs creates heroes. This year is no exception. The best player in the world continued to torture his instate rival. An unlikely pair of forwards powered the Presidents Trophy winners over an upstart challenger. As always at this time of year, goaltending reigns supreme. All this and we are only through round one.

Boston Bruins – David Pastrnak

The Boston Bruins were the only team to need seven games to finish off their first-round opponents, the never-say-die Toronto Maple Leafs.

David Pastrnak was an integral part of the Bruins third-period comeback against the Leafs in Game 7; scoring to increase the team’s lead by two. Pastrnak, along with linemate Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand dominated Toronto combining for 30 points in the series, including seven points in game seven. Pastrnak led the way for the Bruins. He is currently tied with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel for the league lead in playoff points with five goals and eight assists.

The Bruins will be taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round Two. Over the course of the regular season, Boston went 3-1 against Tampa Bay. In order for the Bruins to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, they must continue to apply the same pressure they had throughout the regular season.

Nashville Predators – Austin Watson, Colton Sissons

The league’s best team this year, the Nashville Predators, will have their work cut out for them in Round Two, as they face the Winnipeg Jets.

It was an unlikely duo that pushed the Preds past the Colorado Avalanche. Forwards Austin Watson and Colton Sissons stepped up in round one, combining for 14 points. Both Watson and Sissons have had points streaks throughout their first-round series and lead their team with 7 points apiece.

If the Predators want to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final, they need their depth scoring. Last year’s defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins was partly due to the lack of points production across all lines.

Pittsburgh Penguins – Sidney Crosby

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be relying on their captain, Sidney Crosby, as they face the Washington Capitals for the third year in-a-row in the second round.

Over the course of the Penguins’ six games against the Philadelphia Flyers, Crosby continued to dominate the Flyers, with an impressive 13 points, which ties him for the playoff lead. He’s been an important factor in all four of Pittsburgh’s wins, scoring in each. This productivity has put him in a tie for second in goals and assists with his teammate Jake Guentzel. It’s no surprise the back-to-back Conn Smyth winner is taking his game to another level in the playoffs. 

Crosby, along with the rest of the Penguins, must keep up their productivity if they want to have the same success in Round Two. Braden Holtby has had weak playoff’s in the past but was impressive in coming off the bench to stimy the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round One.

San Jose Sharks – Martin Jones

The San Jose Sharks pulled off the only upset in round one, sweeping their in-state rivals the Anaheim Ducks in four games.

Thanks to the spectacular play of goaltender Martin Jones, the Sharks outscored the Ducks 16-4 in the series. Jones’ 1.00 GAA and .970 save percentage put him in second place, right behind his next oppositional goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury.

Combined, Fleury and Jones allowed only 7 goals throughout 8 games. They were also the only two goalies to sweep their first-round opponents. This upcoming playoff series will surely be a goaltending battle for the ages.

Tampa Bay Lightning – Nikita Kucherov

There’s no denying that the Tampa Bay Lightning’s regular season and playoff MVP would be Nikita Kucherov. The Lightning easily took down the upstart New Jersey Devils in large part to Kucherov’s play.

Kucherov completely tore up his first-round series. He will most likely continue with the terrifying pace he’s been on all year. He currently ranks second in points with 10 and was a key piece for the Lightning through round one.

The Lightning had a substantial break while waiting for their second-round foes, the Boston Bruins, to finish their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. While the regular season counts for nothing in the playoffs, the Bruins did hold a 3-1 edge over the Lightning. In what promises to be a fast and exciting series, Tampa needs their star winger to continue his strong play.

Vegas Golden Knights – Marc-Andre Fleury

The Vegas Golden Knights unlikely run this season continues into the second round of the NHL playoffs. Their storey book run this year has been in large part due to the play of their veteran goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury only allowed three goals in four games and had two shutouts against the aggressive Los Angeles Kings. He leads all goalies with a .65 GAA and .977 save percentage, in the playoffs. Despite a Golden Knights series win, both Fleury and goaltender Jonathan Quick put up impressive numbers in the opening round.

Playing for an expansion team can be risky, but Flower arguably had one of the best years of his career. It’s only natural that play would continue into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Washington Capitals – Braden Holtby

Despite not starting the playoff series, Braden Holtby managed to help the Washington Capitals climb back from a 0-2 series deficit against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Holtby did not have a strong regular season. These struggels led Capitals coach Barry Trotz to go with Philipp Grubauer to start the series. That was until the third period of Game 2. With the Capitals needing a boost, Trotz went back to Holtby, who did not dissapoint. Holtby saved 137 of 147 shots he faced and ended the series with a 1.97 GAA and .932 save percentage.

Multiple factors including the Capitals penalty killers, and star power were huge in their comeback against the Blue Jackets. They must keep up the pace in order to finally make it out of the second round and overcome their playoff nemesiss, Pittsburgh. 

Winnipeg Jets – Connor Hellebuyck

The Winnipeg Jets have shaped themselves into being one of the most feared teams in the league this season.

During the playoffs, a team lives and dies by their goaltending. Although shaky in Game 3 against the Minnesota Wild where he allowed six goals, Connor Hellebuyck posted a 1.93 GAA and .924 save percentage along with back-to-back shutouts in Game 4 and 5 to help the Jets advance to the next round.

Winnipeg’s second-round rivals, the Nashville Predators, will be a greater test. This incarnation of the Jets (via Atlanta) team has never made it past the first round. Icing their best team in history, the team is hungry for more. Hellebuyck will need to continue his strong play that earned him a Vezina trophy nomination if the Jets want to move on.

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