There was a time when a significant slice of the Penguins' fan base believed -- and wasn't shy about saying -- that the team never would win a Stanley Cup with Marc-Andre Fleury as its go-to goalie. Said it right up until the night of June 12, 2009, when Fleury preserved a 2-1 victory in Game 7 of the Cup final against Detroit at Joe Louis Arena by throwing himself in front of a Nicklas Lidstrom shot as time ran out. So much for never. But four years later, the mantra from the remaining doubters -- and there seems to be more than a few -- has morphed into something closer to "Never again." And nothing less than 16 victories in a playoff run, like the one that begins when the Penguins take on the New York Islanders tonight at Consol Energy Center, figures to change that, at least for some people. None of whom, it should be noted, share a locker room with Fleury. If his teammates have any question about Fleury, it likely is why so many people on the outside are unwilling to acknowledge the role he plays in their success. "In my book, he's one of the best," defenseman Kris Letang said. "He's in my top three, by far." While some of the criticism of Fleury's work in previous playoffs -- and skepticism about what he'll do in this postseason, and those to come -- might be unduly harsh, it clearly is rooted in reality. The Penguins have lost to lower-seeded opponents in three consecutive playoffs and in each instance, the other club's goalie -- Jaroslav Halak, Dwayne Roloson and Ilya Bryzgalov -- outplayed Fleury. The most exasperating of those losses came against Philadelphia in Round 1 last spring, and it didn't happen because Bryzgalov stole the series. Rather, the Penguins seemed to decide that was a swell time to abandon everything they knew about playing team defense and killing penalties, and Fleury sunk to the level of most of his co-workers. Aside from a few spasms of brilliance, such as when he singlehandedly saved their 3-2 victory in Game 5, the series was one to forget for Fleury. If he could. "He was not at his best, like he was during the Cup [run in 2009], but you couldn't really say it was [Fleury's] fault," Letang said. "The [penalty-killers] didn't do the job. There were a lot of things that didn't go our way."
Much of playoff pressure for Penguins focused on Fleury
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | May 1