It’s safe to say that no one expected the Pittsburgh Penguins to be 5-4-0 through nine games played. Prior to the start of the season, there were two schools of thought. The first was that the Penguins were too soft of a team and they would be dominated all year. And the other was that the Penguins would be scoring eight goals per game with Phil Kessel on their team.
However, after the first game of the season, both of these groups of people were proven wrong. The only reason why Pittsburgh has a record above .500 is because of the stellar play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. In nine games, Fleury has allowed 1.9 goals-per-game and stopped 93.7 percent of shots faced.
Fleury’s Impact on the Penguins
In order to truly understand what Fleury has done for the Penguins, you have to look beyond the numbers. As of now, Fleury is eighth in goals against average and ninth in save percentage, but that does not tell the whole story.
The Penguins’ defense was pegged as being “younger and cheaper” this season and general manager Jim Rutherford made good on his word. However, as you go younger and cheaper, consistency is usually reduced, especially in the beginning of the season.
Here are a few quotes from Fleury’s teammates on his performance.
He’s playing out of his mind right now.
Backup goaltender Jeff Zatkoff
Flower’s amazing every night. I think he’s the reason we had a chance, even tonight, if you look at all their shots in the second period.
Left-wing David Perron
Flower was playing great all night. I think the more shots he sees, the better he plays. We can’t do that every night, but he was definitely our best player tonight.
Right-wing Beau Bennett
The mentioned consistency issues on defense may not show up on the box score, but look at the shots that Fleury has faced. In his last seven games, he has faced an average of 34.6 shots on net. And those are just the chances that the NHL counts as making it on net.
Here’s just an example of the type of plays that Fleury was making against the Washington Capitals.
In past years, the Penguins’ problem has always been defense and keeping goals out of the net. Fleury himself was even part of the problem at times, but since working with Mike Bales he has been mentally and physically consistent.
Pittsburgh is a very flawed team right now. Prior to the season, many were wondering how many goals the Penguins would score this season and yet, their 3-1 victory over the Capitals was their second time scoring three goals in a single game.
Fleury has been covering for a team that could easily be 0-9-0. It cannot continue and it shouldn’t. With all of the superstar talent the Penguins have on their roster, scoring goals should not be this hard. However, there was a resiliency against the Capitals that was missing in other games. The Penguins didn’t give up and they played their best period in the third.
It’s only a matter of time before the goals start rolling in but, right now, Fleury is the only reason they have a winning record.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave your comments below or tweet me anytime @MPityk