Fleury Passes Game 1 Test; How Long Will Questions Persist?

“It doesn’t matter until April.”
“Wait until the playoffs.”
“He’ll fold in the postseason.”

No matter how well Marc-Andre Fleury played at any point in the regular season, his successes were always met with some form of the quotes above. After all, Fleury was entering the 2013-14 regular season after several years of playoff disappointments, including losing his starting job in the opening round last spring.

This was not a good look for Marc-Andre Fleury's career. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

This was not a good look for Marc-Andre Fleury’s career. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Aside from the year that the Penguins lost in the Stanley Cup Final, Fleury’s postseason numbers have never been anything special.

Playoffs GP GAA Save %
06-07 5 3.76 0.880
07-08 20 1.97 0.933
08-09 24 2.61 0.908
09-10 13 2.78 0.891
10-11 7 2.52 0.899
11-12 6 4.63 0.834
13 5 3.52 0.883
13-14* 1 3.00 0.912

*in progress

But with the shock of losing the starting job to Tomas Vokoun, it was time for things to change.

Regular Season “Bounce Back”

After Pittsburgh was swept by the Boston Bruins in June, both Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma began the offseason by emphasizing their faith in Fleury as the franchise goaltender. Arrangements were made and Fleury met with a sports psychologist over the summer to work through his struggles.

When the regular season began, all eyes were on Fleury to prove that he was a different man in net. The regular season opener was just the first of a long line of “prove it” tests for Fleury.

He handled the regular season opener just fine, recording a 27-save shutout against the New Jersey Devils. He continued on to win his first seven games, allowing just 13 goals in that stretch.

Fast-forward through a regular season in which the Penguins dominated the Metropolitan division and it appears that Fleury’s first set of tests was a success.

Was it a “bounce back” though?

Reg Season GP GAA Save %
06-07 67 2.83 0.906
07-08 35 2.33 0.921
08-09 62 2.67 0.912
09-10 67 2.65 0.905
10-11 65 2.32 0.918
11-12 67 2.36 0.913
13 33 2.39 0.916
13-14 64 2.37 0.915

 

For all of the flak that Fleury has received for being inconsistent, his past four regular seasons have actually been impressively consistent (not to be confused with just impressive). Every one of Fleury’s sub-.900 save percentage performances in the playoffs has been followed up by a regular season performance that includes a GAA range of 2.32 – 2.39 and a save percentage range of .913 – .918.

Perhaps all of those quotes at the beginning had some merit; maybe it didn’t matter until the playoffs for Fleury.

Game 1 Assessments

Fleury faced his next test, or perhaps his first “meaningful” test, against Columbus in Game 1 on Wednesday. Depending on who you ask, he either passed with flying colors or should have been pulled after the first goal he allowed in a 4-3 win for Pittsburgh.

The headlines from recaps are just as confusing.

See: “Fleury hangs tough after shaky beginning” or “Confident Fleury leads Penguins past Blue Jackets” or “Fleury, Price just good enough to win Game 1

Social media couldn’t handle assessing Fleury either:

 

My personal assessment: Fleury was good and the defense was not.

Regardless, Fleury survived game one of the playoffs, which has generally not been a huge issue:

Game 1 GA Save % Result
06-07 6 0.833 L 6-3
07-08 0 1.000 W 4-0
08-09 1 0.960 W 4-1
09-10 5 0.808 L 5-4
10-11 0 1.000 W 3-0
11-12 4 0.846 L 4-3 (OT)
13 0 1.000 W 5-0
13-14 3 0.912 W 4-3

 

Now, he faces another test in Game 2, which has been an issue for the team in recent years:

Game 2 GA Save % Result
06-07 3 0.919 W 4-3
07-08 3 0.900 W 5-3
08-09 2 0.950 W 3-2 (OT)
09-10 1 0.950 W 2-1
10-11 4 0.800 L 5-1
11-12 7 0.767 L 8-5
13 4 0.905 L 4-3
13-14 ? ? ?

 

After that, we’ll analyze Game 3, and then Game 4, and every game Fleury plays forever….

When Will the Tests End?

Will the hockey world ever have complete faith in Fleury?

To use a famous quote from the great Daniel Alfredsson, “Probably not.”

Despite winning a Stanley Cup long ago, Fleury now has a set reputation as a playoff question mark. The analysis never goes to the defense, special teams, or how Pittsburgh is playing overall. It lives and dies with Fleury. To the hockey world, every playoff game will be a test for Fleury.

Luckily, his locker room isn’t quite as dramatic.

 

Fleury has also moved on from thinking too much about the past and the constant microscope he is under.

“As long as it is enough for my teammates and I give them a chance to win every night, I am happy with that. I don’t care about the rest.” – Fleury, from the Toronto Sun

 

 

This is a big postseason for Fleury’s career.

But maybe it isn’t a test. Maybe it’s just hockey.

Meesh Shanmugam
Meesh is an attorney and one of the Pittsburgh Penguins Contributing Writers for The Hockey Writers. He also writes for ThePensNation.com. You can contact him on twitter @HockeyMeesh or e-mail HockeyMeesh@gmail.com
Meesh Shanmugam

One Comment

  1. Fleury needs to put together a complete playoff run of at least a couple of rounds before the questions change in tone. He did it to himself. While the Pens defense hasn’t been great in recent years during the playoffs, Fleury has let in some unbelievably soft goals that were absolute backbreakers. And yes, he did start out very shaky in game 1. Nobody was imagining that. We were all thinking “oh great here we go again”. But i’ll give him credit for recovering and having a nice game. But it’ll take more than one solid game to stop the questions. And rightfully so.

    And for the record, Sid’s comment posted above came before the playoffs started. And while 29 has always been a solid regular season goaltender, he deserves his reputation in the playoffs. Sid knows it too, he just isn’t going to say it publicly.

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