By: Casey Johnston (@PensNationCasey)
Marc-Andre Fleury really blew it on Wednesday night. Even if you did not see the end of the game, by now you have found out that he badly misplayed a puck behind his net with less than a minute remaining. His mistake resulted in a puck in the back of the net. He then allowed a soft goal from the blue line in overtime. The extra day between games has allowed everyone to dwell on this ending. Fleury’s playing ability and mental fortitude are, again, being called into question as the Penguins return home with the series surprisingly tied at two games apiece. Question Marc-Andre Fleury all you want, but if you were still with him at the beginning of the series then do not give up on him just yet.
The last few seasons have been rough for Fleury. While his numbers have been consistent and he has been winning during the regular season, Fleury has faltered during the postseason. He has not had a save percentage above .900 since the 2009 playoffs and he has given up 43 goals in his last 11 postseason games going into this series against the Blue Jackets. Marc-Andre Fleury has given people a reason to doubt.
This season looked different for Fleury. While his numbers were similar to those in the past (save for his career-high-tying five shutouts), he looked different. He looked more confident. He looked like a technically sound goalie rather than one that merely relied on his athletic abilities. He shouldered more than his fair share of the workload while rookie backup Jeff Zatkoff found his game.
Enter the 2014 playoffs. It has been a rough one for the Penguins. Twice in this series they have blown 3-1 leads (as have the Blue Jackets). Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are not scoring goals. One of the more consistent players has been Marc-Andre Fleury. Things have not been easy for him either. He is facing 36.2 shots per game, most in the Eastern Conference. Twice in this series he has seen over 40 pucks fly his way. In both of those games the Penguins lost. That should not be a surprise; if you allow 45 shots to reach your goaltender then you deserve to lose a hockey game.
Be disappointed in Fleury for his performance at the end of game 4, but wait until at least game 5 before you start to question him. He has been through plenty this season and he has worked through the adversity. Maybe we have witnessed Marc-Andre Fleury reaching his breaking point, or maybe we just saw a goaltender have a bad game at a bad time.