Feature Friday: Marc-André Fleury

  Throughout the 2013-2014 NHL season, I’ll be posting player features each Friday. This week, we’re going to take a look at Marc-André Fleury. 

 

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    By: Melissa Esing (Off_thepost)  

Marc-André Fleury is originally from Sorel-Tracy, Quebec. The 28-year-old spent four seasons playing for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in major junior. Within those four seasons, he received both the Telus Cup and Mike Bossy Trophy in 2003.

After major junior, he went on to become the first-round, first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. His first game included a penalty shot save, resulting in 46 total saves. He was certainly living up to the high expectations that come with being a first-overall-pick. Later in the season, a lack of defensive effort on the team’s part resulted in poor performance for the rookie goaltender. After playing with Team Canada in the World Junior Championships, he achieved his second consecutive silver medal. (He received a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver with Team Canada). After returning to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and finishing out the season, he was sent to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

In the 2005-2006 season, Fleury returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins to fill in for Jocelyn Thibault. That season, the Penguins finished last in the Conference and Fleury ended up with a .898 save percentage and a 3.25 GAA. Good things were to come in the following season.

Not only did the team’s defense improve in the 2006-2007 season, but Fleury’s stats significantly improved. He managed 5 shutouts and a 2.83 GAA. Among these improvements, Fleury broke Johan Hedberg’s record for the most games and minutes played in a single season.

Fleury appeared in his first NHL playoff game against the Ottawa Senators. In Game 2, Fleury made 34 saves, winning the game at 4-3. The Penguins were eventually eliminated, but Fleury provided a strong game and effort throughout the series.

After an injury and slow start to the 2007-2008 season, Fleury had one of his best performances within his past four seasons in the NHL during Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings. He stopped 55 of 58 shots during a triple overtime game win. At the conclusion of the playoffs, Fleury managed a new team record of 3 shutouts for the playoff season. Another achievement was his .933 save percentage during the playoffs. In July, the Penguins signed Fleury to a $35 million, seven-year contract.

Photo Credit: Scott Levy/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Scott Levy/Getty Images

The following season resulted in a Stanley Cup victory for the Penguins, their first one since 1992 (third cup overall). One of the phenomenal saves made by Fleury included a glove save against Washington Capitals’ captain, Alexander Ovechkin. Another breakaway save came during game six against the Detroit Red Wings with just 1:39 left in the game. In the deciding game between the Penguins and the Red Wings, with just a dive, Fleury was able to stop a potential goal by Nicklas Lidstrom with just 1.5 seconds remaining. 

During the following season in the playoffs, Fleury had a 2.78 goals average.For a good amount of the 2010-2011 season, both Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby were injured. Fleury and the team’s defense were expected to step up for the team. Fleury ended up with a 36-20-5 record. In the 2011-2012 season, he recorded a .834 save percentage and 4.63 goals against average.

Photo Credit: Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

Fleury ran into trouble during the 2013 NHL playoffs. He let in 11 goals over three games, which is a horrifying statistic. His overall demeanor in the net was not what anyone was used to seeing for him. Since it wasn’t looking good for the goaltender, he was replaced for the remainder of the playoffs by Tomas Vokoun.

With Vokoun on injured reserve for three to six months due to blood clots at the start of the 2013-2014 regular season, questions were raised by many Penguins fans. NHL rookie, Jeff Zatkoff,  is the other goaltender for the season, which puts a lot of pressure on Fleury. Zatkoff allowed six goals in 30 shots during his NHL debut game against the Florida Panthers. He’s still currently working up his confidence, and he will be the starting goalie for the second time during tonight’s game against the New York Islanders.

With having a rookie as our second goaltender, can Fleury last under this type of pressure? He basically has been placed under a microscope. We’re relying on him now after a rocky post-season performance. Although fans have questioned their confidence in the goaltender, Fleury’s teammates have not doubted their starter.

“I think he’s had a lot of scrutiny and I think, as a teammate, we believe in him and we know he believes in himself,” said Crosby in an interview. “So we can’t control what’s said or how things are analyzed, but we believe in him and we don’t have any problems there.”

So far this season, Fleury has made some phenomenal saves. In the first game of the season for the Penguins (against the New Jersey Devils), Fleury had his 250th career win. He had a 28-save shutout. One of the saves included the puck hitting off the post, off of his back, off the post again and finally Fleury saved the puck with his glove behind his back.

“I felt good,” Fleury said in an interview after the game. “We’ve been working hard through the summer and all of training camp. To get in the real game and get in there, the guys played great, couple good bounces here and there. It feels good.”

He stopped 34 out of 37 shots against the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 19, keeping his team undefeated for four games. Fleury’s first loss of the season was Oct. 21 against the Colorado Avalanche. Aside from that, he doesn’t seem to be folding under the pressure. He’s asserting the “flower power”. I think that we can expect good things from him this season.