Pittsburgh Penguins: Comparing Marc-Andre Fleury and Tom Barrasso
Marc-Andre Fleury is the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise netminder, and has been for the last several seasons. In that time, he has struggled and had some question his performance, but in the last few years, he has improved to become arguably one of the NHL's beest goalies.
Tom Barrasso spent several years in Pittsburgh in the late 1980s and 1990s. He helped the Penguins win two Stanley Cups and solidified his place in Pens history even though he played for other organizations during his career. He is also one of the top U.S. goalies to ever play the game.
With Fleury in the middle of a strong season which saw him tie Barrasso's franchise record for career shutouts, I decided to compare the two goalies and see if there was a clear-cut answer to who is the better goalie. Although Fleury is still playing, he has accomplished a lot that can be used to see how he measures up to Barrasso.
My case will be made using these categories:
Drafting and development
Regular season play
Awards and records
Keep reading to find out what I came up with.
Draft and Development
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Barrasso was drafted fifth overall in the first round of the 1983 draft by the Buffalo Sabres. However, he never played for the Penguins' minor-league system, participating in five games with the AHL's Rochester Americans. His AHL record of was 3-1-1 with a .936 save percentage and a 1.35 GAA.
Fleury was the first-overall pick of the 2003 draft. He played more time with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL, but this was mostly due to circumstances out of his control. The 2004-05 lockout forced him into the AHL, as it did for several other NHL players, and he also went to the minors in 2007-08 to rehab from a sprained ankle.
While with WBS, he posted a 39-23-4 record with five shutouts to go with a .930 save percentage and a 1.84 GAA.
Both goalies were highly touted coming into the league and did not require a lot of development time in the AHL. While on the lower level, they both played well enough to prove they belonged in the big leagues.
Regular Season Play
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Barrasso played 11 seasons with the Penguins from 1988 until the 1999-00 season, when he was traded to the Ottawa Senators. In that time, he poosted two 30-win seasons in 1993 and 1998. He hit the 40-win mark in 1993 with a record of 43-14-5. In 1998, he went 31-14-3 while posting career highs in save percentage (.922) and goals-against-average (2.02).
He finished his Penguins career with a record of 226-153-53 with a 3.27 GAA.
Fleury has hit the 30-win mark five times and had his first 40-win season in 2006-07. He picked up his 40th win of the year on Thursday night against the Nashville Predators and is currently first in the league in wins. He currently boasts a 40-14-4 record with three shutouts, as well as a .917 save percentage and 2.24 GAA.
Fleury's career record as of this writing is 224-140-41 with 22 shutouts to go with a .910 save percentage and 2.66 GAA.
Although the argument could be made that Fleury has played behind stronger teams, he has stepped up and beome more confident as he develops, making him stand out over Barrasso.
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Barrasso had nine playoff runs with the Penguins, including the back-to-back Stanley Cup runs in 1991 and 1992. Aside from that, he was in goal when the Penguins lost in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (1993 and 1998), the Eastern Conference Semifinals (1995 and 1999) and the Eastern Conference Finals (1996). In addition, he also lost in the second round in 1989, when it was still known as the division finals.
Barrasso has a Pittsburgh playoff record of 56-42 with six shutouts to go with a 3.24 GAA and .895 save percentage.
Fleury was a Stanley Cup finalist in 2008 and guided the Pens to the title in 2009. Pittsburgh was eliminated in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2010, while they lost in the quarterfinals in 2007. Last season, they were bounced in the quarterfinals after dropping a 3-1 series lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Fleury's playoff record stands at 41-28 with five shutouts with a .910 save percentage and a 2.52 GAA.
This is another tough one to call. Fleury has the better numbers in the postseason, and both goalies have been in two Stanley Cup Finals. They've also both been in the net as the Penguins have struggled to find their footing in the playoffs.
Edge: Barrasso for right now because he has two Stanley Cups. However, should Fleury win another one with the Penguins, this could change.
Awards and Records
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While Barrasso was in Pittsburgh, he set a record for most wins in a playoff season, posting 16 wins during the Pens' 1992 Stanley Cup run. That run started a streak where he won 14 straight postseason games from 1992 to 1993. He finished the 1992 playoffs with a record of 21-16-5 with a 2.82 GAA and a .907 save percentage.
He holds the record for most wins by a U.S.-born goalie with 369.
Barrasso also won a Calder Trophy and a Vezina Trophy, but these came in 1984 when he was playing with the Buffalo Sabres.
Fleury was named to the 2011 NHL All-Star Game and won the Penguins MVP award last season as well. He went 36-20-5 with a 2.32 GAA and a .918 save percentage.
Although Fleury does not have a Vezina right now, he could certainly be in the running for one after posting his second 40-win season. The All-Star Game nod also gives him a leg up over Barrasso.
Edge: Small edge to Fleury. A Vezina and a Calder are nothing to scoff at, but Fleury's accomplishments came with the Penguins rather than another organization.
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Barrasso earned a silver medal with Team USA at the 2002 Olympics. He played in one game against Belarus and allowed the opponents' only goal in an 8-1 victory.
He also played five games in the 1986 World Championships, but the USA did not earn a medal.
Fleury was named the 2010 Canadian team in Vancouver, but did not get into a game. However, he still received a gold medal. He has never played in a World Championships tournament.
Edge: Even. Although both got medals at international events, neither played a prominent role for their team. Fleury could take the edge if he is named to a future Olympic team and carries the load for Canada.
Who Is Better?
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At first look, it might be easier to call Tom Barrasso the better goaltender because he has two Stanley Cups.
However, Marc-Andre Fleury has put himself in a class that Barrasso did not during his time with the Penguins. He has emerged as not only one of the best goalies in team history, but in the NHL. The league may not be taking notice yet, but pretty soon, they will have no choice but to give him a Vezina for his trophy case.
Fleury also stands a good chance at earning his second Stanley Cup, which will improve his playoff record. Furthermore, he will likely play a big role at the next Olympics with Martin Brodeur out of international competition.
It would be interesting to revisit this topic once Fleury's career is over, but for now, I'm going to say he's doing better in Pittsburgh than Tom Barrasso.
So what do you think? Is Barrasso better than Fleury? Are they about even? Do you agree with my assessment?
Drop me a line in the comments and let me know!