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Marc-Andre Fleury is Pittsburgh’s X-factor

Aug 29, 2013, 11:41 AM EDT

Marc-Andre Fleury Getty Images

Marc-Andre Fleury is perhaps the most enigmatic goalie in the league.

That sounds crazy to say something like that about a player who’s not from a particular location in Europe, but if you can figure out how a guy who can play so well can look so bad in certain situations, the Pittsburgh Penguins may want to talk to you.

The Penguins didn’t figure goaltending would be an issue for them last season. After all, they had Fleury to start and Tomas Vokoun to back him up when he needed a break. It turned out he needed a break the most during the postseason as the New York Islanders found ways to continually beat him. Even GM Ray Shero wasn’t sure what would’ve happened had they not turned to Vokoun.

After the Pens were ousted by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals, coach Dan Bylsma made it clear to say Fleury is their No. 1 goalie for this season. For both Fleury’s sake and the team’s sake, they have to hope he can find consistency and at the very least, he’s doing what he can off the ice to do it.

He’s started seeing a sports psychologist. He’ll have a new goalie coach in Mike Bales to work with. As far as how it plays out on the ice, the Pens are hoping it translates into raises in his save percentage.

source: APWhile his goals-against average has been OK, Fleury isn’t breaking any records with the percentage of shots he’s stopping as he hasn’t cracked .920 since the 2007-08 season. That points towards consistency and that’s exactly what the Penguins have desperately needed in goal in the playoffs.

If Fleury can get his head and his play turned in the right direction, the Penguins will be incredibly tough to handle. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Chris Kunitz provide plenty of offense as it is, but keeping opponents off the board is their bugaboo.

If Fleury can’t get right and Vokoun has to pick up the pieces in the regular season, can they go into another offseason wondering if he can get his act together? The Penguins having compliance buyouts to use might provide him with any motivation he needs to improve as soon as possible.

  1. axisofweasels - Aug 29, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    enigmatic? did fleury turn russian in the off season?

  2. amityvillefun - Aug 29, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Hey doc, why do I have panic attacks when the games count?

    • hockey412 - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      Dude you’ve been trolling all day – no one cared about your opinion after about the 5th ignorant post. Pens fans understand you don’t like the team…but when an ignorant, idiotic a-hole like you doesn’t like your team, it’s really more of a bonus. It means we’re on the right track.

      • supercoop8 - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:39 PM

        I know it’s Penguins day and your all bright eyed to talk puck with your fellow Pens fans but you do realize that this sentiment is how everyone feels about the usual nonsense you post.

      • hockey412 - Aug 29, 2013 at 1:41 PM

        I got a sentiment for you, too, coop. Either way – I’m fine with nonsense being posted…and I’m sure not everyone agrees with everything I post, you post, or this idiot…it’s when it’s posted 102 times like last article, and is made out to be from a 5 year old.

    • curioustraveler13 - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:31 PM

      “Hey doc, I troll other team’s articles to feel better about my own team. Why do you think that is”. – amityvillefun

      • amityvillefun - Aug 29, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        I liked that comment.

        So is Pitt-land a bunch of fans that can “dish it out but can’t take it?”

        Whammy? Sorry, but it seems that you guys were all talking smack last season and when it went down in flames, well…. You got awful quiet.

        Just sayin!

        If I dish out smack towards Pitt it’s because of all the big talk from last season…

        And for the record, I don’t need to talk smack to feel better about the Bruins. They look just fine for this upcoming season and lost to a GOOD TEAM last year in the finals.

        Nor do I claim that they are a sure thing.

        See ya in the playoffs Pens.

      • curioustraveler13 - Aug 29, 2013 at 1:52 PM

        I understand what your saying. Pens fans felt confident about that team because of all the star power we had. Not to mention with Crosby and malkin on your team you always feel good about your chances. However as you being a bruin fan you know anything can happen in the playoffs. See Tukka Rask and the last 1:16 of game 6 vs the hawks. See you in the playoffs. Good luck to iggy this year. Class act.

  3. hockey412 - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    MAF is one of the most athletic goalies in the league – that’s what earned him his draft spot. But he suffers in many ways from the same undisciplined approach that has plagued the rest of the team. Hopeully the new coach will impart some discipline instead of leaving him to resort back to his raw instincts when the pressure is on.

    He’s a cup winning goalie, and he’s got the backing of the entire city.

    • hockey412 - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:12 PM

      (and before some jag goes off willy-nilly – I mean the new goalie coach)

    • thisischavez - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      I agree with your entire post, but, if he craps out again in the post season, he’s out. Period. This is truly a make or break season for him….and I’m rooting for him.

    • stakex - Aug 29, 2013 at 4:21 PM

      He’s a cup winning goalie only because he had one of the best teams in recent memory playing in front of him that year. The Pens won the cup that season in spite of Fleury, not because of him.

      • curioustraveler13 - Aug 29, 2013 at 6:14 PM

        Pretty sure that save he made on lindstrom with 3 seconds left in game 7 is evidence against that statement. Games 6 and 7 fleury saved the pens sooo many times. On the championship DVD all his teammates said they wouldn’t be where they were without him, but hey what do they know they just won the cup.

      • hockey412 - Sep 5, 2013 at 11:24 AM

        He was a .912 in the regular season and .908 in the playoffs…that ain’t as bad as you say….but then again what do you really know. Also, during the entirety of those playoffs as well as the season before he made some of the most athletic saves I’ve ever seen.

  4. endusersolutions2013 - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    Pens beat the Islanders largely because the Pens had confidence in their backup, and the Islanders did not.

    Look at the starting goalies at the top of the list. Then scroll down.

    The #s are what the #s are.

  5. phillyphanatic77 - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    Much like Pittsburgh fans wished the Flyers would never get rid of Bryz, I hope Fleury is a lifetime Pen. Not only has he collapsed recently in the playoffs, but he seems to play his worst when Philly comes to Pittsburgh. Still, good luck to the Pens this season… October can’t get here soon enough.

    • nightfireop - Aug 29, 2013 at 1:12 PM

      and as the “flyers of the west”, i enjoy watching the pens fall to the crazy flyers during playoffs.

  6. endusersolutions2013 - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    Pretty telling difference between the Hawks and Pens when you look at goaltending (actually it is defense overall, but since THIS article is focused on Fluery, I’ll stay on topic;)

    Look at the starting goalie stats in the regular season last year. Then look at the diverging results in the playoffs. Cory Crawford steped up his game against tougher competition. Fleury?

    Both GMs and coaches stood pat on their #1 goalie.

    Hawks fans have a lot of reasons for confidence in both. Pens?

    Oh, silly me, most of the media made the Pens regular season and playoff #1, and when the Bruins swept the flawed Pens, made the Bruins the favorite.

    How did those predictions work out?

    • dwmccu - Aug 29, 2013 at 1:31 PM

      I am excited to see how Crawford performs this season when finally having to wear anatomically proportionate gear. That’s not to say I believe he is not a good goalie, but I do believe his flaws will be more apparent, and I know that I’m not alone in thinking this. I also don’t want to start the “Pad size in relation to goal scoring” argument. Regardless, they are a fun team to watch, so I don’t care either way.

    • mmmpierogi - Aug 29, 2013 at 2:29 PM

      As mentioned before, nobody cares about the Chicago Blackhawks with reference to a topic like this. Do yourself a favor and expand your homerfied frame of reference.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 29, 2013 at 3:21 PM

      dwm, you have a point, and it applies to other goalies as well, such as a storied goalie in NY.
      There should be a consistant standard for all pad dimensions and other artificial ways to cheat (like Patrick R wearing hard to see underarm webbing).

      MMM, I make points using examples. I am admittedly more familiar with the Hawks than any other team, hence my using them more often. I use other teams/team members as well.

      Such as the Islanders making a mindboggling decision to stay with Naby in goal when he was totally tanking (a .842 save% as a starting goalie in the playoffs). Pens changed and likely won as a result. Further mystified that they did not make any changes in the summer, such as signing Ray Emery when they could have (he wanted the opportunity to start and took lesser pay for the opportunity.

      Both are valid examples.

    • jtowme - Aug 29, 2013 at 5:52 PM

      So you just took an entire paragraph to say you agree with the article? You could have said virtually the same by simply saying “I agree”.

  7. oquintero99 - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    I would also add that they need some stay at home defensemen. Letang playing left wing doesn’t help. Yes, MAF has his issues and it seems that he is working on them, but let’s not forget that the Penguins defensive seems to have a more offensive minded d-men than they should.

  8. bwomped - Aug 29, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    Fleury didn’t get four routed out of the Eastern Conference playoffs. I love how we cheer the two best players in the league but, when we lose it’s on MAF’s shoulders and not Sid or Geno? If you ask me, it has everything to do with the,”offense only” approach. Not one person threw #44 Orpik under the bus. Or Kris Letang for that matter. Their reputation has not taken one spec of tarnish. MAF is one of the biggest factors in having that THIRD cup in Pittsburgh. How many cups has Lundquist won? No active goalie besides Martin Broduer has more than one cup as the starting goalie. If they don’t win the cup this year, the focus better shift to where the problem actually lies.

    • jtowme - Aug 29, 2013 at 5:57 PM

      I have to agree with you, bwomped, especially when it comes to Letang. I know the “experts” say he will still mature as a defenseman, but if he never plays defense, how can he get good at doing it? I was kinda hoping Letang would be traded for a lot of value, maybe two or three solid stay at home defensemen that can clear the crease.

  9. malvaren18 - Aug 29, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    This guy is done, the penguins should trade him.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 29, 2013 at 3:25 PM

      Likely a make or break year for him. But who’d trade for him today? It would have to be some team with otherwise strong D, season ending injuiry to their goalie, and grate confidence in their goalie coach.

  10. pitpenguinsrulez - Aug 29, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    I love all of these expert readers on here…they crack me. PhillyPhanatic77 you say Fleury cracks vs the Flyers? Last I checked he beat you twice this season and even in the game he got chased from the Pens still came beat your teams ass. If my memory serves correct didn’t Fleury beat the Flyers in all 8 meetings back in 2006-2007? Fleurys playoff series record vs Philly is 2-1 so keep holding onto your trophy from beating the Pens in 2012….oh wait that’s right you didn’t win a trophy nor Stanley Cup in 2012!

    • phillyphanatic77 - Aug 29, 2013 at 4:17 PM

      Yeah I said he cracks in PITTSBURGH when the Flyers come to town. And he had NOTHING to do with that comeback victory against a struggling Flyers squad that had no healthy defenders and a terribly ineffective netminder. In fact, he was the sole reason a comeback was even necessary. And you’re really gonna bring up his success against the Flyers in the 06-07 season when the Flyers were devoid of talent and ended up with the worst record in the entire NHL (which should’ve landed us Kane but we don’t have the lottery “luck” of the Pens)?

      His success against us came 5 or 6 years ago. Since then hes let in more soft goals than I can even remember, especially when the games are in Pittsburgh. But this discussion shouldn’t even be about his regular season performance, it’s all about the playoffs… where Fleury has been bad (at best) since the Cup victory. And I only brought this all up bc there have been numerous Pens fans who have clearly stated that they’d wish Bryz would never leave Philly. And I now feel the same about Fleury. He’s got as much physical ability as anyone (in fact I praised him numerous times after stellar performances last season), but his head is not right. And that makes him your clear achilles heel.

  11. stakex - Aug 29, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    Fleury is probably the worst long term starting goaltender in the NHL right now. People talk about him like he use to be great and has lost his game in recent years. That’s not the case however.

    His best regular season GAA was 2.32… which was probably good enough for middle of the pack at best. As the article also points out he hasn’t cracked .920 in save percentage in years…. and the one time he did (.921) he only played 35 games. His career playoff numbers aren’t any better either, with a GAA of 2.73 and a .903 S%. Those are really bad numbers for a starting goaltender.

    Yes, he has a Stanly Cup as well as another trip to the finals. He actually played better in 2007–08 when the Pens lost, and their loss still could be largely blamed on him. When the Pens actually won the Cup he had a .908 S%, and a 2.61 GAA…. hardly great (or even good) numbers. The Pens won that cup in spite of how so-so Fleury played, and not because of him.

    So the question I keep seeing is “Can Fleury find his form again?”, but that’s really a trick question. The answer is that he never did lose his form. The last two seasons have seen him play about the same as he’s ever played… its just that the media and Pen’s fans have this false belief that he use to be better then he actually was. The sad thing for Pens fans (and the great thing for the rest of us) is that with a slightly better goalie the Pens would be an incredibly dangerous team. With Fleury in net though? It will be nothing short of a fluke if the Pens win a cup any time soon.

    • nightfireop - Aug 29, 2013 at 4:51 PM

      oh i can only imagine how badly pens and their fans wish they had lundqvist, rinne, quick, or bobrovsky right now (oh and 3 of those mentioned are west coast). seriously if any one of those 4 offered their services to penguins, flower would be kicked to the curb in a heartbeat.

      • curioustraveler13 - Aug 29, 2013 at 5:08 PM

        Funny out of those 4 goalies you listed only one has a Stanley Cup, and that ties Marc Andre Fleury. I find it hilarious how great lundqvist is he has never been to a Stanley cup final, yet fleury has been to 2 and won 1.

      • phillyphanatic77 - Aug 29, 2013 at 8:44 PM

        Fleury is also surrounded by the best talent in the NHL, and has been for years. Lundqvist is the backbone of a solid team. Fleury is essentially a hindrance (right now) to a potentially great team. If you put Lundqvist on the Pens they probably have 2 or even 3 Cups in the same amount time that Fleury has been the starter.

        Nobody doubts Fleury’s physical ability. In fact, he’s probably the most athletic goalie in the league east of Quick. But once he allows that first softie it tends to snowball very quickly.

  12. therealjr - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:22 AM

    Bottom line on Fleury:

    4 straight years of under .900 SP in the playoffs.

    .893 SP over his last 55 (!) playoff games.

    That’s not a blip and it doesn’t matter how good the offense is, you can’t win with goaltending that bad in the playoffs. Pens need to find someone who can be at least average until that Fleury contract (and Fleury) is gone.

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