by Tony on 01/26/11 at 09:50 PM ET
I quickly did a search of articles I’ve written in the 2 1/2 seasons here at KK, and there are no fewer than five articles I’ve done here at The Confluence that are criticizing Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in one way or another.
Not that I’m back-peddling on those at all, mind you.
But I’ve always said that I’ll praise a player with the same respect that I constructively criticize. So having said that, it’s only fair that I type yet another Marc-Andre Fleury article, but this time it’s one of praise.
After his first seven games, it sure looked like Fleury was continuing with his average play from last season. A win-loss record of 1-6, giving up no fewer than three goals in all seven games. Letting in soft goal after soft goal.
It was ugly.
But commencing with a 5-1 Penguins win over Tampa Bay on Nov. 12th, it’s been nothing short of a remarkable 180 degree turnaround.
A record of 22-5-2 since then, which is fantastic enough on its own. But even more impressive for Fleury, who’s historically had quite mediocre GAA and Save Pct.‘s throughout his career, he’s given up more than two goals only eight times during that stretch.
So now, not only is Fleury near the top of the NHL in wins with 23 (tied 3rd), but he’s also in the top handful of GAA (2.19, tied for 4th) and Save Pct. (.925, tied for 5th).
So, what the hell?
Could it simply be that Fleury is much more confident this season? There’s no doubt that Fleury is playing with a lot of confidence now, it’s clearly evident watching him. I could give that some credence I suppose, but not the lion’s share. I would give him higher marks for being a better goalie fundamentally this season as compared to recent years as well.
But just as Fleury had average defensive defensemen in front of him last season, the revamping of the Penguins’ defense has no doubt helped him this season. The Penguins defense, ranked 20th in the league last season allowing 2.87 goals per game, now has that average way down to a 2.24 goals per game, good enough for 2nd in the league. It also must be noted that the Penguins’ penalty kill is the best in the league with an 88.5 kill percentage.
Let me be clear, I’m not making excuses for Fleury’s outstanding play. Sure, it helps to have an excellent defense in front of you. But the defense doesn’t make those saves that Fleury’s been making consistently this season.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are such a crapshoot, there are a number of things that will separate who will win the Cup and who won’t. But one thing’s a constant: Having a hot goaltender makes that crapshoot a whole lot easier.
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Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.
Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.
I am blogger- credentialed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. My posts are regularly linked by hockey websites such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Yahoo!‘s Puck Daddy, and I’ve done numerous guest blogger spots on such websites asthe New YorkTimes. I am a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer.
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