With Fleury, Pens Always Have A Chance
The Penguins locker-room has been a revolving door.
As injuries have piled up over the season and new faces from the farm came and went, it became obvious that offense going to become scarce.
With the additions of James Neal, Alex Kovalev, and a few friendly faces fresh off of the IR, the Penguins are finally back to generating that 70/30 pressure that Dan Bylsma enjoys seeing on a nightly basis.
But that doesn’t mean that 4 or 5 goal nights will become a regularity, and that doesn’t mean it will be easy to play from behind.
In the absence of some of the stars that helped put the Penguins on a path to 200 straight sellouts that will be celebrated this Saturday, it will be tough sledding for the Penguins from here on out.
There probably isn’t a skater in the locker room that feels that more than the goaltender.
In the face of adversity, Marc-Andre Fleury has put his mark on this injury-riddled run for the Penguins.
But before we commend and look forward, let’s take a step back.
In October, it was open season on Marc-Andre Fleury for some hockey fans. Anyone with a keyboard or a telephone could get their opinion out to the masses, the majority of which was primarily negative.
Some of it was deserved, Fleury struggled through the first month of the season, as did the newly renovated Penguins defense.
People wanted to see Brent Johnson become the regular starter. People wanted to see Fleury traded. A poster on LetsGoPens.com wrote that he felt “vindicated” over Fleury’s struggles, citing that he’d called the goaltenders demise months in advance. People began tallying how many months it had been since Fleury had put together a strong stretch of games.
Blame was generously handed out to anyone that would take it and people seemed to enjoy watching Fleury struggle.
My goodness, it’s a good thing hockey isn’t a 10 game season.
Now, we find Marc-Andre Fleury towards the top of nearly every statistical category for goaltending in the National Hockey League. Sporting a 2.33 GAA, a .919 save percentage, and a 30 win tally to his season, it’s difficult to find any of those “vindicated” persons that threw Marc-Andre Fleury under the bus at every given opportunity this year.
I want to be fair here, because not all Penguin fans were ready to pack his bags for him. In fact, in what could be considered his turnaround game, fans in Pittsburgh began chanting his name pre-game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Now, watching the Penguins on a nightly basis, we see a calm, composed, and patient Fleury; a Fleury that looks brand new.
So much has been talked about recently with the Penguins. James Neal and Alex Kovalev, the injury bugs, Sidney Crosby’s concussion watch, the Islanders fiasco and Matt Cooke, but no one is talking about the guy behind it all wearing #29.
In general, the demise of the Pittsburgh Penguins has been greatly exaggerated. They’re playing great hockey, and with hard work, anything is possible in April and beyond.
But if there is one encouraging aspect, one sparkle of hope for this team, its the goaltender. Right now, Marc-Andre Fleury is showing a poise that we haven’t seen since 2009 in Detroit.
When he’s on like that, you simply cannot count the Pittsburgh Penguins out of the race.