Ryan Malone and Marc-Andre Fleury broke in with the Pittsburgh Penguins together in 2003.
They’re both having breakout playoffs at the same time, too.
Both are examples of front-office patience and are key parts of the post-season success that has vaulted the Penguins into the Stanley Cup final.
“It’s what you play hockey for,” said Malone. “I think everyone dreamt about it as a hockey player, to get a chance now to battle for the best prize there is out there.
“It’s going to be fun. I think we’re all excited to get going.”
Malone emerged this season as a solid power forward, recording career highs in goals (27) and points (51). He helped himself with a huge second half, totalling 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists) in his last 40 regular-season games.
He’s kept his hot hand going in the playoffs, with six goals and nine assists in 14 games.
Fleury — called Flower by his teammates — blossomed in late winter. He missed 35 games due to a high ankle sprain suffered Dec. 6. But this spring he’s 12-2 with a 1.71 GAA and .939 save percentage — and has some looking at him as a Conn Smythe candidate.
“Me and Marc broke into the league together,” said Malone. “I think especially this year, we all kind of figured out what it took, how consistent you have to play.”
While Fleury is living up to the potential that made him a first-overall pick in 2003, the 27-year-old Malone, by comparison, is a late bloomer who discovered success by planting himself in front of the opposition goalie. That was the reason for his two goals Sunday in the Penguins’ 6-0 elimination of Philadelphia. Both were on deflections.