Pow­er­ing the Flower: Ve­gas’ Prior teaches Fleury new tricks

North Bay Nugget - - SPORTS - W.G. Ramirez

LAS VE­GAS — The Ve­gas Golden Knights fig­ured they might get some­thing spe­cial by cross­ing a re­spected goal­tend­ing coach with an ac­com­plished goal­tender.

Dave Prior and Marc-an­dre Fleury are mak­ing quite the pair for the his­tor­i­cally suc­cess­ful ex­pan­sion team.

Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup cham­pion goalie, brought a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence when he was se­lected dur­ing last year’s ex­pan­sion draft. He’s aim­ing for a fourth Cup as Ve­gas re­turns home from Win­nipeg tied 1-1 in the West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal — Game 3 was Wed­nes­day night.

He has hit it off with Prior, Ve­gas’ goal­tend­ing coach who has helped the 13-year vet­eran pick up some new tricks.

“He’s a great man,” Fleury said. “I think it shows, he’s been around for a long time. So much ex­pe­ri­ence, he’s seen a lot of goalies, guys I grew up watch­ing and lik­ing, and he’s coached them. I think he’s some­body that wants me to trust in my abil­ity to do things.”

Prior has an old-school ap­proach com­pared with many cur­rent goalie coaches. He thought Fleury would fit with his pre­ferred style and in­sisted gen­eral man­ager Ge­orge Mcphee

tar­get the goalie when Pitts­burgh left him un­pro­tected for last year’s draft.

“He ob­vi­ously stud­ies goal­tenders all around the league and looks at the way that they’re play­ing the game,” Mcphee said. “He was ex­cited, and he re­ally ad­vo­cated for him in our meet­ings and thought that he could make him even better than he’s been.”

Said Prior: “When you have some­body who’s as gifted as Marc is, it’s try­ing to keep him play­ing to his po­ten­tial all the time. He’s not a backup goal­tender. He’s not past his ‘best be­fore’ date. He still has the ca­pa­bil­ity of play­ing great.”

Prior, of course, was right. Fleury fin­ished this reg­u­lar sea­son with a 2.24 goals-against av­er­age and .927 save per­cent­age — both ca­reer bests — as Ve­gas had by far the best ex­pan­sion sea­son in league his­tory. The vet­eran also boasts ca­reer-best post-sea­son num­bers in both cat­e­gories, with a 1.68 GAA and .945 save per­cent­age through 12 games.

Prior and Fleury have been cryp­tic about what­ever ad­just­ments they’ve made to Fleury’s game. What Prior will di­vulge is that he be­lieves once a goalie buys into his way of train­ing, his con­fi­dence level in­creases and he be­gins to feel more pro­duc­tive in the net.

“I en­cour­age a very strate­gic goal game that we’re try­ing to make it very hard for the shoot­ers, not just try­ing to have all the an­swers for the shooter’s shot,” Prior said. “Marc is a bit se­cre­tive about it, but you have to have a lot of tal­ent to play ... it’s a dif­fi­cult way to play the way I ask our goal­tenders to play. I didn’t know how Marc would re­spond be­cause he’s an older goal­tender, and they usu­ally are sort of set in their ways and harder for them to make ad­just­ments.but he’ s been great and en­gag­ing in em­brac­ing this strat­egy .”

Fleury said Prior has him spend­ing less time wor­ry­ing about giv­ing up goals in prac­tice and spend­ing less time on the ice be­fore games. Prior doesn’t need Fleury work­ing as hard as pos­si­ble if he’s work­ing cor­rectly.

“Goal­tend­ing plays games with your mind,” Prior said. “When you feel like you can’t stop a puck in prac­tice, you’re wor­ried that’s what’s gonna be show­ing up in the game. It plays on your mind. Guys al­ways felt ‘I gotta work, I’ve gotta do ev­ery­thing to make sure I’m gonna be good.’

“Fo­cus on the ex­e­cu­tion, not worry about ‘How hard I have to work to give me the best chance to be good,’” Prior added. “I (pre­fer) you work less, but are cor­rect. It pays div­i­dends when you play the game.”

Ja­son Halstead/getty Im­ages

Ve­gas goalie Marc-an­dre Fleury has hit it off with Golden Knights goalie coach Dave Prior.

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