PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 3: Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins is introduced prior to the game against the New Jersey Devils on October 3, 2013 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Penguins not surprised by Fleury starting season with shutout, 250th win

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Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury entered the 2013-14 campaign with something to prove and he got off to a great start Thursday night. Fleury turned aside 27 shots, including a late third period penalty shot, to pick up his 250th victory and 24th shutout.

It would be tempting to make that event into some grand statement after his disastrous showing in the 2013 playoffs, but the Penguins and Fleury kept level heads with 81 games left to go. They did, however, take this opportunity to assert that they’ve never lost faith in Fleury.

“Sometimes I shake my head at the things I read,” forward Craig Adams said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“This guy’s a champion. He’s a great teammate. I’m happy for him. He played awesome …

“(But) I don’t think it means as much as you might think. We’ve had confidence and will have confidence in Flower.”

Ultimately it was a strong performance and Fleury’s achieved a significant milestone, but it’s hard to read too much into this start. Fleury has endured four rough playoff runs in a row, but he’s remained strong in the regular season.

Like the rest of the Penguins, Fleury could have a dominant 2013-14 campaign, but that’s not what he’ll be judged on. If he wants to move past the concerns surrounding him, then he’ll need to have some outings like this in the playoffs.

Under Pressure: Marc-Andre Fleury

PHILADELPHIA - JANUARY 19: Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins takes a drink during the season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on January 19, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Pittsburgh Penguins we picked…goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

On a team that typically has no trouble scoring goals and in recent years has almost always been regarded as a major Stanley Cup contender, Fleury has become something of a blemish.

The most frustrating part for this franchise is that goaltending shouldn’t be this big of an issue. Fleury should be up to the task. He was once a highly regarded prospect and has even excelled at times, but he’s also struggled for four straight playoff runs. And it’s only gotten worse.

Although he wasn’t solely to blame, Fleury couldn’t seem to buy a save against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 2011 playoffs. After that, the Penguins decided to get a backup goaltender they could depend on in Tomas Vokoun.

The Penguins still went right back to Fleury for the start of the 2013 regular season, but they were ready when he went cold again in the playoffs. Vokoun took over and helped guide them to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2009.

That didn’t stop coach Dan Bylsma from firmly stating that Fleury was still their number one goaltender, although as it happens they temporarily have little choice due to Vokoun’s health issues.

Still, while the Penguins remain largely loyal to the former first overall pick, questions about his ability to step up in high-pressure games have to be on their minds. It was probably a factor when Hockey Canada declined to invite him to their Olympic orientation camp despite the fact that the 28-year-old made the 2010 gold medal-winning team.

It has to be weighing on Fleury, too. How many second chances will he get? His contract expires in the summer of 2015. If he can’t shake his current reputation, will there be a team out there willing to offer him a long-term deal?

Fleury’s path to redemption starts in October, but it certainly can’t end there. A great regular season won’t shake away the doubts or stigma surrounding him. After all, he had a solid regular season in 2013 and it didn’t solve anything. To get out from under this, he will need to be at his best this spring.

Otherwise the Penguins will be struck with a disturbing sense of déjà vu and on a team that’s trying to win at all cost while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are in their prime, they would be hard pressed to simply go through this again with Fleury in 2014-15.

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

Penguins’ goalie Fleury has been just ‘OK’

Boston Bruins v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Two
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It’s only exhibition and doesn’t count toward the standings, but Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had another tough showing.

Fleury, who has struggled mightily in the last two post-seasons, allowed four goals on just 23 shots in Saturday’s 5-3 pre-season loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.  And his play doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the most pleasing of reviews.

“He’s been OK, it’s been OK,” Penguins general manager Ray Shero said Saturday, as per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“It’s a work in progress, I think. You see that with a number of our players.”

Fleury, 28, made five appearances during the 2013 playoffs, before giving way to Tomas Vokoun after allowing 14 goals in four starts against the New York Islanders in the opening round.

Despite his struggles, the Penguins went out of their way following the series loss to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference final to name Fleury their No. 1 goalie for the upcoming season.

A vote of confidence that is, the pressure on Fleury’s shoulders grew immensely on Saturday.

On Saturday, Vokoun had a blood clot in his pelvis dissolved and there has been no time frame for his return to the lineup.

In the meantime, Jeff Zatkoff, 26 years of age and with no NHL experience, will be given the chance to assume the No. 2 role while Vokoun remains out.

Bylsma: Fleury, Vokoun the ‘best tandem in the league’

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Just one day into training camp and Dan Bylsma is already pumping his goalies’ tires.

On Tuesday, the Pens head coach said his netminders — Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun — were the “best tandem in the league,” according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Bylsma’s comments come after a summer in which Pittsburgh’s goaltending came under heavy scrutiny.

Fleury, who will enter the 2013-14 season as the club’s No. 1, lost his starting gig to Vokoun during the playoffs after some shaky outings in the first round against the Islanders.

Vokoun performed well enough in relief, though he did allow six goals in 42 shots in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals against Boston, getting yanked in Game 2.

The Penguins have all taken a similar approach to discussing their goaltending situation throughout the summer and, apparently, into training camp.

The first part is saying they have faith in Fleury — “we believe in him,” captain Sidney Crosby told the Trib — and the second is confirming that, should Fleury falter, they’re comfortable having Vokoun between the pipes.

In spite of that, Bylsma made it clear the team won’t be employing a timeshare in goal this season.

The plan is for Fleury to get the majority of the starts, and the club is hopeful he can reclaim the form that saw him backstop Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup in 2009.

Marc-Andre Fleury is Pittsburgh’s X-factor

Marc-Andre Fleury
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Marc-Andre Fleury is perhaps the most enigmatic goalie in the league.

That sounds crazy to say something like that about a player who’s not from a particular location in Europe, but if you can figure out how a guy who can play so well can look so bad in certain situations, the Pittsburgh Penguins may want to talk to you.

The Penguins didn’t figure goaltending would be an issue for them last season. After all, they had Fleury to start and Tomas Vokoun to back him up when he needed a break. It turned out he needed a break the most during the postseason as the New York Islanders found ways to continually beat him. Even GM Ray Shero wasn’t sure what would’ve happened had they not turned to Vokoun.

After the Pens were ousted by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals, coach Dan Bylsma made it clear to say Fleury is their No. 1 goalie for this season. For both Fleury’s sake and the team’s sake, they have to hope he can find consistency and at the very least, he’s doing what he can off the ice to do it.

He’s started seeing a sports psychologist. He’ll have a new goalie coach in Mike Bales to work with. As far as how it plays out on the ice, the Pens are hoping it translates into raises in his save percentage.

source: APWhile his goals-against average has been OK, Fleury isn’t breaking any records with the percentage of shots he’s stopping as he hasn’t cracked .920 since the 2007-08 season. That points towards consistency and that’s exactly what the Penguins have desperately needed in goal in the playoffs.

If Fleury can get his head and his play turned in the right direction, the Penguins will be incredibly tough to handle. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Chris Kunitz provide plenty of offense as it is, but keeping opponents off the board is their bugaboo.

If Fleury can’t get right and Vokoun has to pick up the pieces in the regular season, can they go into another offseason wondering if he can get his act together? The Penguins having compliance buyouts to use might provide him with any motivation he needs to improve as soon as possible.