Fleury Returns to Old Form After Slow Start
NHLHS Pittsburgh Penguins Corespondent Robbie Naugle takes a look at the resurgence of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury after his slow start to the season.
To say that Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury got off to a rough this season would be a huge understatement. Coming into the season, expectations for Fleury were high. He had a re-built defense in front of him and looked as sharp as ever coming out of camp. Unfortunately, that play did not carry over to when it really mattered. Fleury went from the Pens’ number one goalie to sharing his job with back-up Brent Johnson just two weeks into the season. Things got even worse for Fleury when Johnson won his first four starts and became the primary goalie for the Pens, while Fleury had fallen to 0-3 in his starts. With a save percentage below ninety and a goals against of above three, Fleury and the Penguins were looking for answers.
After seeing his record drop to a futile 1-6-0, things finally started to change for the young net minder. In a game against the high powered Tampa Bay Lightning, Fleury stopped fifteen of sixteen shots and the only goal he allowed was on a nearly unstoppable blast from Steven Stamkos on a two man-advantage. Earlier in the game, Fleury stoned Martin St. Louis on a breakaway in the second period. It was the same type of play that St. Louis had beat Fleury on just a few days before in Tampa Bay. From that moment on you could see the confidence coming back. He was a different goalie after that game. He was making the big saves and even bailing his defense out on several occasions. This was the Fleury everyone was expecting to see. The crowd responded with a “FLEURY, FLEURY” chant after he was named the game’s first star. You could see the relief and joy in his face during his post game interview.
The following night, Fleury once again came up big in a game at Atlanta. With he Pens leading 3-2 with under ten minutes to play, Fleury stopped several Thrashers chances to help preserve the two points for Pittsburgh. Fleury’s only blemish since returning to the number one starter in Pittsburgh was a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers, in which he and Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist went save for save with each other on Monday night. He rebounded with wins against the high-powered Vancouver Canucks, where he outplayed Roberto Luongo, and against the Carolina Hurricanes two nights later.
With Fleury in goal, the Penguins are now 4-0-1 in their last five games. In those fives games, Fleury has posted a goals against average of 2.20 and a save percentage of .920. For the season, Fleury has boosted his record to 5-6-1, with a goals against below three, and his save percentage up near ninety.
Fleury may have his moments and is certainly frustrating to watch at times, but he is still young and has time to grow. He is only twenty-six and has already reached 150 wins and helped carry the Pens to a Stanley Cup. His upside far outweighs his hiccups and small mistakes. His problems are often magnified because he plays on such a high profile team with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Often times we highlight the bad in Fleury and fail to highlight the good. He needs to support of his fans and teammates to get him through the bumps in the road, and that’s exactly what he has gotten. Never once did you hear a teammate be critical of him, it was because they knew who the real Fleury was and now we all are getting the chance to see it.
You can now see his trademark smile brimming through the bars of his mask as he soars with confidence. You knew it was only a matter of time before our “Flower” started to bloom.