May 5, 2013; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo (21) scores on Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during the third period in game three of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Change At Goalie Coach Could Be What Fleury Needed


The Pittsburgh Penguins recently made a change as to who will serve as their goaltending coach, which could potentially be the move that revives Marc-Andre Fleury.

New netminder coach Mike Bales — who replaced longtime coach Gilles Meloche — now has the challenge of fixing Fleury’s recent issues in goal.

Before Bales became the new goaltender coach for the Pens, he led the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goalies to be the best in the entire American Hockey League (AHL).

Together, WBS goaltenders Brad Thiessen and Jeff Zatkoff allowed the fewest goals in the league (178), and Zatkoff’s 1.93 goals-against-average was the lowest in the AHL.

A pretty impressive resume for Bales, who also has a say in re-building the Pens goaltender depth within the system.

Fleury hasn’t so much lost a step during the regular-season as he has in the postseason — in terms of wins — but he definitely still needs to improve his save percentage and goals-against-average.

Ranking fourth in the NHL with 23 wins for the regular-season, Fleury had a mediocre .916 save percentage accompanied with a disappointing 2.39 goals-against-average.

Although they aren’t the worst numbers in the world, he needs to start honing and controlling the net more to raise his confidence level — something he hasn’t been able to master in the playoffs of late.

This past postseason, Fleury posted a horrendous 3.52 goals-against-average and a dismal .883 save percentage, which ultimately lost him his starting gig to Tomas Vokoun.

Despite winning 23 games during the regular-season, number-29 has one of the most efficient offenses, if not the best offense in the entire NHL — so they’re going to pot goals in large quantities.

Not that Meloche overstayed his welcome, it’s just that after two terrible postseason outings in a row for Fleury, maybe it was the right time to find a new mentor.

If Fleury can boost his morale, bring his game back to where it was at when they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009, Pittsburgh has a chance to break through that threshold of being eliminated.

Fleury has a clean slate; however, should he continue to struggle, his contract — and competition within the system — suggest that the team could move forward without him for the 2014-15 campaign.

Having already mentioned Thiessen and Zatkoff, the Pens also have goaltenders Eric Hartzell and Tristan Jarry as a part of their organization.

Hartzell was signed by Pittsburgh following his final season at Quinnipiac University, where he won multiple awards including the 2012-13 USA Hockey College Player of the Year.

Jarry was selected by the Pens in the second-round (44th overall) this past draft, and although he’s still young, the 18-year-old led the Western Hockey League (WHL) in save percentage (.936) and goals-against-average (1.61).

We’ll have to see how Fleury performs; at this point, he almost has to execute this season.

Let’s hope Bales can bail him out.


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