Worth A King’s Ransom: Penguins’ Win Over LA Highlights Value of Marc-Andre Fleury


When the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Marc-Andre Fleury to a four-year contract extension on November 5, 2014, speculation erupted immediately as to whether the Penguins should have looked elsewhere for a franchise goaltender and whether the team had overpaid.  Although Fleury’s body of work this season speaks for itself, his play in the Penguins’ 1-0 victory over the playoff-hungry Los Angeles Kings highlighted just how valuable the Flower is.

Fleury’s performance against the Kings on Saturday night was impressive on several fronts.  On an individual level, Fleury stacked another shutout onto his career-best season, shutting the door for the 9th time in the 2014-2015 campaign; he currently has a two-shutout lead over  Carey Price and tops the league. However, the game against the Kings proved more than the simple fact that Fleury, as an individual, is having a good season.

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During Saturday’s tilt, the phrase “playoff hockey” was tossed around on message boards and by the media.  Put simply, this means that the teams were playing a physical brand of hockey intended to wear the other team down while trying to remain responsible on the defensive end; goals were going to come by force and sheer will.  While both Marc-Andre Fleury and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick played well, each fending off solid offensive chances, it was Fleury who stood on his head to steal the game for his team.

The reason Fleury’s performance on Saturday was so important is because it showed that he can keep calm between the pipes when the team in front of him is not generating offense.  During the game against the Kings, the Penguins tended to pass too much, shoot too little, and allowed too many scoring opportunities while generating few for themselves. Still, Fleury kept his angles and refused to let the Kings score.

Importantly for playoff purposes, Fleury did this on the road, and held on long enough to allow teammate Patric Hornqvist to score the game-winning goal in overtime.

The NHL playoffs are unique unto themselves.  Unlike other major sports where teams and players simply “elevate their game,” in hockey, the style of play completely changes.

Teams that had relied on their offensive firepower all season have to demonstrate that they can defend an onslaught if they want to hoist the cup.  Oftentimes mediocre goaltending will be masked during the regular season if teams are able to generate enough offense to eke out wins.

In the playoffs, that mask comes off, and it is the netminder who can remain calm in the face of adversity that will propel their team to victory.

If it weren’t for the season that Carey Price is having for the Montreal Canadiens, Marc-Andre Fleury would be a likely candidate to win the Vezina Trophy.  As it stands now, Fleury has earned a nomination.  Fleury’s play has kept the Penguins in the playoff race and helped the team survive injuries, trades, and offensive droughts.  It seems clear that he has earned his paycheck.