Is this Marc-Andre Fleury’s Final Season With the Penguins?

Is this Marc-Andre Fleury's final season with the Pittsburgh Penguins? (Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports)

Is this Marc-Andre Fleury’s final season with the Penguins? (Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports)

Marc-Andre Fleury hasn’t played in more than one playoff series per year since 2009-10. He’s either lost in the 1st-round or been replaced before a 1st-round series was over. If this pattern continues, this might be Fleury’s final season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury must earn four victories against the Columbus Blue Jackets or he won’t be representing the Penguins against their 1st-round playoff opponent next year.

Fleury will be in the final year of his contract next season. As we’ve learned, general manager Ray Shero will sign a player that he plans on retaining a year before their contract expires. If Fleury fails to perform for the fourth straight post-season, Shero won’t be having discussions with Allan Walsh – Fleury’s agent – to extend his client’s contract.

A trade would likely be in the works to ship Fleury out of town. Another playoff debacle from Fleury will drain the last of the Penguins’ confidence in their franchise goaltender. The team will never again believe they can win a playoff game with Fleury between the pipes. Shero will have no choice but to search for another starting net-minder who is able to perform under the pressure of the post-season.

Many fans demanded that Fleury be traded after he was pulled against the New York Islanders, last year’s 1st-round playoff opponent. The Penguins were fortunate to ride the hot play of Tomas Vokoun and get out of that series in six games. Vokoun’s stellar play carried the team to the Eastern Conference Finals. The fact that the Penguins made it that far lifted some of the burden off of Fleury.

Starting Wednesday, all of the goaltending duties rest on Fleury’s shoulders. There’s no back-up swooping in to save the team as Vokoun did a year ago. The Penguins re-called Vokoun, but he hasn’t played a game this season at the NHL level.  If he’s called upon in the playoffs, don’t expect Vokoun to be sharp.

Jeff Zatkoff has the ability to handle back-up duties in the regular season. But when it comes to the playoffs, Zatkoff doesn’t have the talent or experience to save the day if Fleury falters. If Zatkoff plays, the Penguins are in trouble. He didn’t play in back-to-back games all year.

However, Fleury should benefit from playing the Blue Jackets. They’re in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Collectively, this Blue Jackets’ group is light on playoff experience. The speed and physicality of the playoffs are drastically different from the regular season. No matter how much the Blue Jackets believe they’re prepared, most teams have to lose a playoff series before they can find post-season success. Look at the Penguins against the Ottawa Senators in 2007. The Penguins were outmatched and overwhelmed.

Another thing favoring Fleury is the visit he had with a sports psychologist last summer at the direction of Shero. According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “seeing a sports psychologist over the summer has helped him [Fleury] “channel things.” Rossi goes onto write that Fleury was worried about trying to “please everybody.”

“I’ve got to find ways, when people say I had a bad game, to not worry about it,” Fleury said. “That’s it, really. I’ve got to say, forget it. Onto the next one.”

Pittsburgh Penguins' head coach Dan Bylsma put all of his stock in Marc-Andre Fleury before this season began. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Pittsburgh Penguins’ head coach Dan Bylsma put all of his stock into Marc-Andre Fleury before this season began. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Following the Penguins’ playoff exit last year, Shero and Dan Bylsma gave Fleury a vote of confidence that he would be the starting goalie heading into this year’s playoffs.

“We were in a situation where Tomas Vokoun went into net and won the third and fourth games of a series for us and continued to play in our net,” Bylsma said. “But Marc-Andre Fleury is a guy who’s going to come back to our team and he’s going to be the No. 1 goalie. He’s going to be the franchise goalie. He’s going to be this franchise’s goalie.” (The Canadian Press – www.tsn.ca)

That’s why Fleury is going to be under the microscope starting Wednesday. Ironically, Fleury must please everyone – the fans, his teammates and the organization – if he plans on finishing his career in Pittsburgh. Fleury is too talented to underperform in four consecutive playoff series, right?

Do you believe Marc-Andre Fleury will rebound this post-season?


Justin Glock
Justin Glock has covered the Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers since 2011. As a lead writer, his Penguins knowledge traces back over two decades. For any requests, please feel free to contact Justin via email: JGlock10@gmail.com.
Justin Glock
Crosby invisible after 5 minute in and same old Letang turnover machine. 2 assists for Letang tonight. - 1 hour ago
Justin Glock

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: When the Pens are Confident, Can they be Beat?

  2. I read Meesh’s season review for goal assessments, and his research said Fleury gives up 1 bad goal every 4 games this season. I don’t know how that compares to the rest of the league, but if he keeps that ratio for the playoffs, it will be impossible in my opinion to blame it on him. That kind of ratio should at least get us to the ECF if not the SCF.

  3. Dan,

    Thanks for commenting. I won’t argue at all about Fleury’s playoff performance. However, I don’t think all the points you bring up lie on Fleury’s shoulders. He does single-handedly win a good bit of games for the Penguins every regular season, and he doesn’t have a team that is ever very focused on their defensive end. This definitely doesn’t help his cause. You can argue his 5-on-5 save percentage, but is that a product of him, or a product of how bad the Penguins are 5-on-5 this season? Especially considering how many injuries the Penguins have gone through. It really comes down to whether they’re good or bad goals. Regardless, this playoff season is put up or shut up. The excuses have run dry. It doesn’t matter if the Penguins defense hangs Fleury out to dry. Fleury must step up big and play better or he won’t be on the roster next season in my opinion. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

  4. Dan Lansberry says:

    Unfortunately for Fleury, a “rebound” playoff campaign will put him in the .890 to .900 sv% range. Fleury is basically Andrej Pavelec; the difference is Fleury plays for a team that is capable of masking his odors while Pavelec does not. Fleury is basically Cam Ward; the difference is that when Carolina won the Cup, Ward was a big part of the reason why (even though he’s never played anywhere close to as well since).

    Fleury showed up once, and that was the 2008 playoffs. The following year when the Pens won the Cup he was actually terrible. Like, really really terrible. No one cared because the Penguins won, and everyone just ran their brains off about that save in the last seconds against Lidstrom. And all that happened afterward was he got a hell of a free pass for multiple years. And YES that free pass should totally expire. It should already be expired. The Penguins can get basically any other available goaltender and not be worse off.

    I don’t care about a psychologist. Let’s look at 5 on 5 save percentages, because there really is no better way of evaluating goalies as they compare to one another than by using even strength save percentage. (From nhl.com, player stats, goalies, special teams reports.) 38 goalies played at least 30 games this regular season. In terms of even strength save percentage, Fleury ranks 30th. He stopped a greater percentage of shots this regular season than Lehner, Nabokov, Thomas, Ward, Pavelec, Brodeur, Berra, and Dubnyk. Half of those guys are 45 years old. What is Fleury’s excuse? Except for the old, the wounded, and the inexplicably employed, everyone else was better than Fleury this season. Every single other goaltender was better than him.

    His problems are NOT limited to the playoffs. His problems are just less visible in the regular season because the Penguins can defeat half the teams in the league on a given night no matter how many goals Fleury allows, within reason. In the playoffs, not so much. Fleury is a backup caliber goaltender. He is like an outfielder who plays out of position and overcompensates for it with fine athleticism resulting in lots of highlight reel catches (most of which should be routine) and lots of errors (most of which shouldn’t exist). He gives up the juiciest rebounds in the universe. He misplays the puck. He turns the puck over too much. He goes out of his way to project an image of easygoing lightheartedness. He’s about done.

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