Blackhawks: Could Fleury be poised for another Vezina season?
Marc-Andre Fleury is coming off of a career year that saw him win his first Vezina Trophy. Could history end up repeating itself in the 2022 season?
The Chicago Blackhawks have solved their goaltending question, at least for the time being, by acquiring veteran netminder Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights. While his tenure with the ‘Hawks beyond next year is questionable, there is no doubt that he will massively improve the team between the pipes this upcoming season.
Fleury was outstanding last year, continuing his great play from his previous three seasons with Vegas and helping them reach the Stanley Cup Semifinals against the Montreal Canadiens. The 36-year-old’s hard work was rewarded, and he received his first Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender.
Fleury will definitely look to continue that stellar play next season, but what are the chances that he wins another Vezina Trophy? This will likely be dependent not only on his own play but also on how the Blackhawks play in front of him.
In last year’s Vezina-winning season, Fleury posted a remarkable .928 save percentage, the highest of his career and significantly higher than the league average of .908. This undoubtedly helped the argument that the Vezina Trophy should’ve been his. After all, for a goalie at this stage of their career to play as well as Fleury did is not always a guarantee.
However, it is also important to remember that he was playing for the Vegas Golden Knights, not the Blackhawks. Vegas has a uniquely strong defensive core, allowing the fewest goals against in the 2021 season while also allowing their top four to contribute offensively. This is a large part of the reason that the Golden Knights nearly reached the Stanley Cup Final.
The Blackhawks are decisively not the Golden Knights when it comes to defense, although the blockbuster addition of Seth Jones will undoubtedly help them improve from last year. The team was in the bottom half of the league in most defensive categories and allowed 184 pucks to enter their net.
How much Chicago’s defense will improve next season, and how they gel with their new goaltender, is perhaps the biggest x-factor in determining what type of year Fleury will have. Besides Jones, additional defensive help from another newcomer, Jake McCabe, will also strengthen the team’s back-end lineup.
Will Fleury thrive with the Blackhawks?
It is definitely possible, although he may also need some time to adjust. As good of a goaltender as he is, he hasn’t been dominant every year of his career. His 2020 season, one in which he shared the net with ex-Blackhawk Robin Lehner, saw him post his worst GAA in four years, and he’d eventually be relegated to backup during the playoffs.
Despite this, though, if Marc-Andre Fleury can stay healthy and keep up the athleticism that we saw from him last year, we could see another stellar season from him. Combine that with (hopefully) a reinvigorated Blackhawks’ defense, and we might see him shine.
Does this mean that he’ll be crowned the best goalie again next year? I’d say it’s possible, but unlikely, as there have not been back-to-back Vezinas awarded since Martin Brodeur in 2007 and 2008. If the Flower plays the same way he did last season, though, we might just see him add some more hardware.