Marc-Andre Fleury’s heroics not enough to save Blackhawks against Bruins

Fleury finished with 46 saves, including some spectacular ones, but the Hawks still fell 2-1 in overtime Tuesday.

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The Bruins beat the Blackhawks on Tuesday in spite of Marc-Andre Fleury’s big night.

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Marc-Andre Fleury ended his recent slump in remarkable fashion Tuesday.

Hounded by the Bruins’ offense all night, Fleury stopped 46 of 48 shots — including 21 of 21 in the second period — to carry the Blackhawks to an undeserved point in a 2-1 overtime loss.

By the time Fleury moved post to post to rob Brad Marchand late in the second period, then made two more saves after the ensuing faceoff, the United Center crowd of 19,629 was giving him a standing ovation every time.

“When he’s on like that, it’s fun to watch,” interim coach Derek King said. “He made some spectacular saves. The first game against Boston [last week], we deserved better. Tonight, they deserved better.”

The Bruins finally cracked Fleury in the third period, but Brandon Hagel tipped in a shot by Caleb Jones to tie the score. The Hawks benefitted from a questionable goalie-interference call in the final five minutes to successfully reach overtime before losing on Matt Grzelcyk’s game-winner.

Fleury entered the game only 6-9-1 with an .892 save percentage since Jan. 20, which threatened to reduce his trade value at a critical time. But the nine scouts from opposing teams in the building surely forgot those concerns quickly.

As a team, though, the Hawks struggled mightily to get any traffic or pressure on Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark. They had only 20 shots on goal.

Vlasic signs

Hawks defensive prospect Alex Vlasic didn’t take long to make a decision about his professional future. 

Three days after his junior season at Boston University ended, Vlasic signed his three-year entry-level contract with the Hawks on Tuesday.

It carries an $824,000 salary-cap hit and starts immediately, with 2021-22 counting as Year 1. Vlasic, a Wilmette native, will join the Hawks on Thursday.

“It’s rare to find a player of Alex’s skill level and size, and we look forward to him continuing his development path with our club,” general manager Kyle Davidson said in a statement. “His steady development at [BU] was noticeable and encouraging as we chart his future with our team.”

Vlasic has grown to 212 pounds on his 6-6 frame and greatly improved his strength and physicality this season, developing into one of the better defensemen in college hockey. He told the Sun-Times in February that it was “eye-opening to me how much stronger I actually am than I thought I was.”

Prospect implications

Vlasic’s leap to the NHL will be a huge challenge, and it’s reasonable to expect some growing pains at first.

But it’s telling that the Hawks are adding him directly to their roster.

He clearly has been deemed one of the highest-priority defenseman prospects in the system, jumping the logjam of AHL guys — Ian Mitchell, Alec Regula, Jakub Galvas, Isaak Phillips, Wyatt Kalynuk and Nicolas Beaudin — in the hierarchy.

King said bluntly Monday that Kalynuk, Beaudin and Mitchell haven’t been called up to the NHL as much as the others this season because “they haven’t been playing as good as those guys.”

King later clarified that Mitchell is playing well while gaining experience as Rockford’s No. 1 defenseman, so he probably is exempt from that criticism.

Considering King’s words, as well as the sheer quantity of solid defensive prospects in the Hawks’ system (all of those guys plus Nolan Allan, Wyatt Kaiser and Ethan Del Mastro), Davidson may well be considering moving some of them to add more talent to the much-drier forward prospect pipeline.

That’s something to keep an eye on ahead of Monday’s trade deadline.

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