Pittsburgh Penguins’ goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has started the season off on the right foot, after an offseason of scrutiny attributed to another disappointing postseason performance.
Surrendering one goal to the Philadelphia Flyers in Thursday’s contest at the Wells Fargo Center, Fleury went on to win his sixth game of the season, and remains undefeated in net for Pittsburgh.
Currently tied with Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks for the league lead in wins, the 28-year-old Fleury has also posted one shutout — which is tied for first in the league — and owns a solid 1.67 goals-against-average with a .932 save percentage on the year.
Seeing a total of 147 shots taken on his net, Fleury has stopped 137 of them, and has made a number of key saves in games where the team has needed it most — especially in last night’s game against Philadelphia.
Showing us why he’s characterized as a butterfly goaltender, Fleury was covering both sides of the net with outstanding flexibility and held the Flyers offense in check in the later stages of the game where they had multiple scoring opportunities.
But are Pens’ fans suppose to believe that Fleury has finally returned to a being the premier goalie his once was?
After all, it really has only been six games. And due to the fact that backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun will miss significant time, Fleury’s going to have a considerable amount of workload this season.
Are we to assume Fleury will keep this up? After current backup goaltender Jeff Zatkoff didn’t impress many in his NHL debut against the lowly Florida Panthers, it’s definitely plausible to trust Fleury will get the job done.
Knowing that Vokoun isn’t there to take away any of his starts, that might’ve been just what Fleury needed to boost his psyche because he now knows he’s Pittsburgh’s number-one goaltender and seems to have responded unwaveringly to the increased responsibility.
Or maybe it’s just another case of Fleury being great in the regular-season.
It isn’t as if he’s had a tough time playing during the regular-season, because over the past two seasons’ he’s compiled a 65-25-4 record, then proceeded to collapse in the playoffs.
However, this could all very well be behind him should Pittsburgh make the postseason this year, who knows.
It’s too early to evaluate Fleury, but his resurrection could be as a direct result of the tutelage provided by new goaltending coach Mike Bales.
Bales, who was the goaltender development coach for Pittsburgh the past two years, helped netminders Zatkoff and Brad Thiessen combine for the fewest goals allowed last season (178) in the American Hockey League (AHL). So perhaps his insertion into mentoring Fleury could also be the explanation behind his outstanding start.
We won’t know if Fleury is for real until the playoffs arrive, but it’s nice to see him thriving this early in the season.
He’ll most likely be in net Saturday when Pittsburgh takes on the Vancouver Canucks and will be vying for his seventh straight victory.
Game can be seen on the ROOT network, and is set to start at 1 p.m.