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Under Pressure: Marc-Andre Fleury

Sep 24, 2013, 8:33 AM EDT

PHILADELPHIA - JANUARY 19: Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins takes a drink during the season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on January 19, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) Getty Images

“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Pittsburgh Penguins we picked…goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

On a team that typically has no trouble scoring goals and in recent years has almost always been regarded as a major Stanley Cup contender, Fleury has become something of a blemish.

The most frustrating part for this franchise is that goaltending shouldn’t be this big of an issue. Fleury should be up to the task. He was once a highly regarded prospect and has even excelled at times, but he’s also struggled for four straight playoff runs. And it’s only gotten worse.

Although he wasn’t solely to blame, Fleury couldn’t seem to buy a save against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 2011 playoffs. After that, the Penguins decided to get a backup goaltender they could depend on in Tomas Vokoun.

The Penguins still went right back to Fleury for the start of the 2013 regular season, but they were ready when he went cold again in the playoffs. Vokoun took over and helped guide them to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2009.

That didn’t stop coach Dan Bylsma from firmly stating that Fleury was still their number one goaltender, although as it happens they temporarily have little choice due to Vokoun’s health issues.

Still, while the Penguins remain largely loyal to the former first overall pick, questions about his ability to step up in high-pressure games have to be on their minds. It was probably a factor when Hockey Canada declined to invite him to their Olympic orientation camp despite the fact that the 28-year-old made the 2010 gold medal-winning team.

It has to be weighing on Fleury, too. How many second chances will he get? His contract expires in the summer of 2015. If he can’t shake his current reputation, will there be a team out there willing to offer him a long-term deal?

Fleury’s path to redemption starts in October, but it certainly can’t end there. A great regular season won’t shake away the doubts or stigma surrounding him. After all, he had a solid regular season in 2013 and it didn’t solve anything. To get out from under this, he will need to be at his best this spring.

Otherwise the Penguins will be struck with a disturbing sense of déjà vu and on a team that’s trying to win at all cost while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are in their prime, they would be hard pressed to simply go through this again with Fleury in 2014-15.

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

  1. amityvillefun - Sep 24, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    Gee Doc, I have this recurring nightmare where pucks just keep going past me….and I can’t stop them!

    And Zdeno Chara is under my bed!

    • borgsng - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:18 AM

      Do you make these dumb comments very often?

      • amityvillefun - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        Whatever. It’s a joke. Guess you can’t take one. Maybe you need a shrink too!

      • laxman1944 - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:31 AM

        Get a grip friend……the Chara under the bed was pretty darn good.

    • steelpenbucs87 - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      Psh that’s a terrible comment because that kind of stuff DOESN’T happen in his dreams it happens in real life, so there!

      /begins sobbing uncontrollably

  2. whiskytango333 - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    To be quite honest, it was offensive to me as a Penguins fan when Bylsma had that press conference at the end of the season, after Vokoun played so well, and named Fleury the starter this year. The bottom line on Fleury is that hes nowhere near the 5 million/year hes making. If hes on any other team that doesnt score like the Penguins can, his win/loss record is awful. If hes going to be a headcase in the playoffs like hes been the past 4 years, what value does he bring to the team? My only hope, that in Vokoun’s absence, that Jeff Zatkoff gets a few starts and shows that there is a even-trade alternative, that comes at a lower price tag. With the scoring abilty of the Penguins, all you need is a goalie to make the saves hes suppposed to make. Fleury struggles with this baseline criteria more times than not.

    • miketoasty - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:08 AM

      The way I look at it, is they give Fleury one more chance (Probably at least one too many) then they buy him out if he flounders again and the Penguins organization doesn’t look back. With a new goaltending coach and a new assistant coach aimed solely at making this team more defensive there is no reason Fleury shouldn’t have his best season yet.

      As was said in the article Malkin and Crosby aren’t getting any younger and this team needs to be in a win now mode before it’s too late.

    • tightbutth0le - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:20 AM

      I lived in Pittsburgh during the season last year (moved in the summer) and it amazed me how many of my Pens fans friends were hating on Vokoun when they lost. They kept saying that Fleury is the kind of goaltender that wins cups, but their defense is severly mediocre. I was honestly baffled every time I heard it. I’m not saying that their defense isnt mediocre, it definitely is. And to be clear it isn’t bad, its just so very very average. But that goals he was surrendering against the Flyers and Islanders the past two years were just god-awful, and the defense had nothing to do with Fleury kicking the puck into his own net. I’m glad to know you, whiskytango, are not blinded by the same weird loyalty to Fleury as a lot of your fellow fans. They should be realistic in their analysis, tell it like it is. Fleury needs a psychologist.

      • kjjm4 - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:00 AM

        Pittsburgh fans always love the backup…until he’s the starter. They’ll be calling for Bruce Gradkowski to be the new starting quarterback for the Steelers any day now.

      • titleistgolf871 - Sep 25, 2013 at 4:18 AM

        Really? As a pen’s season ticket holder, Vokoun played fantastic for the entire season. Most die-hard pens fans and hockey fans hold the same beliefs that it has been a long time since Fleury has been the brilliant kid he was in 09. As the number 1 pick in the NHL entry draft, expectations are high and even more so when your a goalie. Don’t get me wrong the guy has been adequate in the regular season but the playoffs are where nhl goalies are made or broken and if you wanna be considered elite this is the proving ground time and time again. It’s been a while since I’ve said wow Fleury held us in that one which is a comment associated with the elite goalies in playoffs. Look at Hasek or Brodeur in their prime. The guys in the league now that have this sort of wow seem to Bob and Quick. Fleury definitely needs to get his act together if he wants to stay in the league and with the Pens because realistically theirs too much talent on that team not to see some tremendous return because of one weak link

    • drone501 - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:34 AM

      i think all everyone wants from fleury is to earn his salary. a hot fleury in the playoffs two years ago could have helped the pens win another cup. it looks like we have turned into the flyers, god help us all.

  3. hockey412 - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    Zatkoff looked pretty good last night, too.

  4. pitpenguinsrulez - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    What I see is a repeat of the 90s with the Pens struggling to go far in the playoffs due to goaltending issues. Fleurys like Barrasso in that they both went to back to back stanley cups but after the last one they struggled to get back. I’ll back Fleury this season but if he struggles again I’m done with Fleury. Regular season success is nice…looks good when your retired…but it matters more in the playoffs!

  5. pitpenguinsrulez - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    @kjjm4 that gave me a good laugh! Sorry but I’ll take Ben any day of the week.

  6. deezenucks - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    Fleury won a cup with the pens, and the guys love him. He still has the talent and the the most athleticism in the league.
    I’m a goalie myself and to me his problems looked more mental then anything, it kept snowballing at the worst time of year. Confidence is a huge thing for us and once it’s shaken to that point it’s tough to get your game back. The philly series was just one of those wild ones, but the islanders one was dismal. Tho it wasn’t Vokuns fault either, pens would benefit from a steady stay at home D man to calm things down.
    He needs the coaches confidence which he got, and a good start this year and flower will bounce back. I’d draft him as my fantasy goalie with confidence.

  7. hockeyflow33 - Sep 24, 2013 at 5:41 PM

    If he played on a team that played defense he would be fine.

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