Brought to you by Hertz

Drive to the Net: Fleury embracing present while keeping Penguins on track

Fleury has plenty to look back upon, good and bad, and he might not be a Penguin next fall, but he’s choosing to embrace the present.

Marc-André Fleury makes a second-period save Thursday. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Nine years ago, Marc-André Fleury presided over the Penguins’ first Eastern Conference championship of the century, clinched with a cathartic 6-0 defeat of the Flyers at Mellon Arena.

Nine days ago, Fleury was the presumed backup for the start of the first round, until Matt Murray couldn’t make it through Game 1 warmups without aggravating a lower-body injury.

Both moments seemed equally distant Thursday night, when Fleury’s 49 saves culminated his latest rise to prominence and completed the Penguins’ five-game elimination of the Blue Jackets, his first series-clinching win at home since that aforementioned Sunday afternoon in May 2008.

Fleury has plenty to look back upon, both good and bad, and he might not be a Penguin next fall, but he’s choosing to embrace the present. After responding to a couple of so-so games in Columbus, Ohio, with a No. 1 star-worthy performance in a 5-2 win at a jubilant PPG Paints Arena, no one was blaming him for that.

“Just trying to go one game at a time and enjoy it,” Fleury said. “You never know what’s coming for you. We have a great team. We have great fans. It’s a fun place to play so I just try to enjoy it.”

The night sure seemed like a crowd-pleaser early in the second, when the Penguins built a 3-0 lead. About 15 minutes of game time later, though, Fleury had to make this dazzling stop on Jack Johnson to keep his team ahead:

“He was fantastic for us,” Ian Cole said of Fleury, whose .933 save percentage in the series was representative of his overall aptitude. “Enough can’t be said for the way he steps in on a moment’s notice and all series long plays so solid for us. I think he’s great feeling those momentum swings and making the big stop when he needed to.”

The concept of a ‘timely save’ can be refuted — when has there ever been an untimely save? — but the bottom line is that Fleury came through in some particularly opportune times over the past five games.

Most notable among those moments: The Penguins’ shaky first period in Game 1 and the vast majority of their clinching Game 5. In both occasions, Fleury was at the eye of a crease-centered hurricane, maybe not entirely calm but a game-saver nonetheless.

“There were times in the series when they had 10, 15 minutes of really good play and he had to make multiple key saves,” Ron Hainsey said. “He played great in the first 10 minutes of Game 1. That period was not great for us. We could’ve been down two- or three-nothing. He was able to get the job done and away we went.”

Mike Sullivan called Game 5 a microcosm of the series in its wild pendulum swings, but these 60 minutes also represented some of the young Blue Jackets’ strongest hockey of the series.

“Well, we had a lot of chances,” John Tortorella lamented. “We had over 30 chances, which is just insane. We needed to capitalize. We didn’t.”

As per their tendency this series, the Jackets fired pucks from the walls, the points, the corners … however they could make the Penguins turn and look for rebounds off Fleury. Unlike in Games 3 and 4, when he allowed a combined nine goals, Fleury did better absorbing and directing shots, but that wasn’t enough to make for a routine evening considering how hard Columbus was fighting.

Cole said the Penguins were happy to let the Jackets unleash shots from non-scoring areas in this series, reasoning that they could simply get the puck back quicker that way.

“We’d like to limit shots, for sure, but if their game plan is to shoot from anywhere, they’re going to get shots,” Cole said. “As long as we limit those Grade ‘As’ around the front of the net, we should limit their goals.”

It’s a fine theory, but there were times in this series when Fleury seemed marooned in the blue paint. Times like, say, two minutes into Game 5, when Cam Atkinson worked his way open at the lip of the crease:

Or, 30 seconds into the second, when William Karlsson slipped a feed to Josh Anderson:

After the Penguins regained the look of champions early in the third, Fleury denied the shifty Alexander Wennberg on a wraparound, showing that he wasn’t going to roam too far from his net like at times during a mediocre Game 4:

For all the highlight saves Fleury made, though, much of his night was spent craning his neck to see the puck with all the skaters and sticks stationed in front of him.

“I think the biggest thing is to find the puck,” Fleury said. “If I can see it leave the guy’s stick, I can have a better chance of knowing where it’s at and (get) in the right spot.”

“They threw a lot of pucks to the net and they always had somebody around,” Fleury said. “Always somebody trying to poke it.”

Fleury also made frequent mentions of his teammates’ helping him keep the Jackets at bay. He wasn’t just being nice, since Cole, Nick BoninoOlli Määttä and Trevor Daley each chipped in potential goal-saving plays:

(The Blue Jackets’ first goal, scored by Karlsson, went in off Brian Dumoulin‘s stick. That was the third ‘friendly fire’ goal that got behind Fleury over the past two games, so there was some hindrance to go with the help.)

Unlike Fleury’s previous clinching moment in front of the home fans, the Prince of Wales Trophy wasn’t handed out after this one, but if there were a series MVP award to be awarded, Fleury would’ve been the favorite in that home dressing room.

“Not many words to describe how he’s playing right now,” said Scott Wilson, who capped the scoring in the third period. “He’s been a big boost with the way he’s playing. Couldn’t be happier for a good guy like him to shut the door for us.”

Fleury has won over one of his newest teammates, too, not that his reputation didn’t precede him anyway.

“My perception was that he was a great goalie, a Cup-winning goalie,” Hainsey said. “A tremendous person off the ice. But, you know, when ‘Murr’ went down Game 1, you’ve got a guy stepping in who’s done it before. A great goalie, regardless of what happened during last year’s playoffs, you know? I think the guys fed off that. I think we all have confidence he can be the guy.”

But will Fleury remain ‘the guy?’

Murray has yet to take the ice since re-injuring himself, but the Penguins will probably have a week off before stepping back onto game ice for the second round, either in Pittsburgh against the Maple Leafs or in Washington against the Capitals. That could provide enough time for recovery and give the Penguins a tough decision. Also, if we’re talking history, Murray’s .925 save percentage over the past two seasons blows away Fleury’s .916 over that span, even as the elder member of that tandem played noticeably better after the March 1 trade deadline.

As Fleury alluded to above, the future is uncertain. In his case, at least he’s made a statement to Sullivan that he’s still capable of doing the goalie’s most important job — bailing out his teammates — at the most important time of the year.

“I thought we got timely saves from Marc,” Sullivan said. “That’s what helps you overcome the emotion that comes with momentum swings.”

For a goalie who’s won the Stanley Cup with a lunging last-second save, getting through the first round wouldn’t seem to thrill that much. But, consider the circumstances of Fleury’s past year, from sitting out most of a championship playoff run, to seeing Murray sign an extension, to being the subject of rampant trade reports.

Throw in the loudest ‘Fleur-y, Fleur-y’ chants of the year from the latest sellout crowd Uptown and Thursday night was “right up there,” to use the goalie’s own words.

“To be here, at home, in front of our fans, and to be able to get that win … ” Fleury said, trailing off. “Just the support they’ve given me throughout all these years. I still get butterflies and goosebumps when I hear the crowd chanting, so I’m happy that I was able to contribute.”

That might be an understatement, since the 51-shot workload in Fleury’s team-record 57th playoff win was the most voluminous he’s faced in a regulation postseason game.

“I think he gets bored if you only let them have 15 shots,” Cole said. “We were doing it for him, I think!”

“We’d like for him to not have to work that hard,” Sidney Crosby said. “He was the best player tonight.”

MATT SUNDAY GALLERY

Penguins vs. Blue Jackets, Game 5, PPG Paints Arena, April 20, 2017. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

91 Comments

Join the discussion

91 comments on "Drive to the Net: Fleury embracing present while keeping Penguins on track"

Notify of:
Sort by:   Newest | Oldest | Most voted
Paddy
Paddy

I think they need to stay with Fleury, like they stuck with Murray last spring. Perhaps Murray is done for the year, as Jarri is still here.

DJ
DJ

Bet Hainsey feels like he died and went to heaven.

Man, who wouldn’t coming to this team?

kessel--run
kessel--run

Jimmy Vesey?

Jay Roberts
Jay Roberts

Well, mr. Game 7, Williams saves the caps from the brink…. get em back at home Toronto.

wubar
wubar

So disappointing. Didn’t TOR have a goal called back because of debatable “goaltender interference”?

Suwanee88
Suwanee88

I expected MAF to crack, I was wrong, he played an outstanding series overall!

PucknutZ
PucknutZ

Hey Dk, maybe not the exact right place to put this but…
While the Pens are resting how bout a “game thread thing” Caps/Leafs .
I am thinking just a placeholder type thing for us hockey nuts to chirp on the next round opponents. Just a thought.

Jay Roberts
Jay Roberts

Excellent, since we grab any story and do it anyway. 😄

Jay Roberts
Jay Roberts

Lol, leafs are in caps heads. They are drawing penalties right and left. Caps playing not to lose.

Legit hip check on Ovie in first has caps all riled up. Was called a penalty for clipping, but Ovie has done far worse to others. 1-1 after 2 . You can feel the pressure on caps….

mattleers
mattleers

MAF has been good, at times great, and was the main reason the Pens got out in 5 with their troublesome penchant for slow starts but…I miss Matt Murray. He is undeniably the least exciting of our goaltenders but I don’t want ‘excitement’ in net. I get enough of that from our forwards.

Murray’s groin issue is concerning and sounds like he won’t be ready until who knows when. As I like to say: the groin is the heart of a hockey goaltender. MAF’s poor SV% in away games indicates that he will need his team to bail him out half of any playoff series. Matt Murray is a rock who indiscriminately stops pucks whether he’s in PPGPaints or under a bridge in Tokyo. I understand the MAF love but that love tends to disregard objective analysis: Murray is the stronger goalie and we need him.

TheWolf
TheWolf

Wow! Someone (Kadri) actually dared line up Ovi in EXACTLY the same way he hunts other players. Looks like a hyperextended knee. Had to be helped off. Wouldnt surprise me though if he comes back in the third. Caps score on the PP but Milbury and Jones adament it wasnt a penalty in the first place, arguing a clean hip check. Have to agree. Anyway, get your popcorn out!!

Jay Roberts
Jay Roberts

He used his hip, that’s legal. Ovie needs to shut up. If roles were reversed, Ovie would have stuck knee out and toasted the player.

412LGP
412LGP

Ovie musta drank some miracle water in between periods. And you are right about how Ovie does that to other players, but the Cap fans wanted someone to concuss Kadri. How dare someone hit their captain.

mike
mike

Go Pens ! Period !

412LGP
412LGP

Caps feel that the Leafs play a similar games as the Pens, fast, lots of goal scoring. And that if they can beat the Leafs, it will help them against the Pens.
I guess they are not looking ahead or anything like that. Or i guess that they know their series is not over yet.

Go Leafs Go.

GT87
GT87

Pens can’t give up 50 shots against the Caps and expect them not to bury more that the Jackets. What a difference between this year and last at points last year they would give up 4 shots a period. Have to find a way to get out of their zone better and limit shots. But no one would have thought they would have gotten out of this series with no injuries. Here’s hoping the Caps/leafs goes 7 with multiple OTs

412LGP
412LGP

Just for kicks, i looked up the shots in the Caps/Leafs series.
Caps-37.5 per game
Leafs-36.8…. but those are games with multiple OT’s.
Pens lead with 38.8

chrisinindy
chrisinindy

Hey Gotcha, you predicted Pens vs. Preds final, didn’t you?

kessel--run
kessel--run

“The concept of a ‘timely save’ can be refuted — when has there ever been an untimely save?”

Reminds me of the Seinfeld Series Finale when they’re in the court room with Jackie Chiles.

“Have you ever heard of a guilty bystander? No, because you cannot be a bystander and be guilty.”

chrisinindy
chrisinindy

Marc is a primary reason why we are moving to round two. Thank JR that we have him!

chrisinindy
chrisinindy

Anyone wanna beat the handshake horse to death again? C’mon. it’s important!

Black_Sunshine
Black_Sunshine

You know you have the option to ignore and not read stuff, right?

chrisinindy
chrisinindy

That’s easy for you to say, B_S. I can’t and won’t help myself. The more I make fun of it the more I think it’s funny.

At one point I was insisting that Badger Bob Johnson had no hands to shake at all and that he actually had hooks that kept ripping things in the handshake line….

And that, I think, is the whole point. I am so damn happy to have that series over and done, that I can have fun with virtually anything at all. Even something so inane as the silly handshake stuff or the Torts is a jerk in his presser… I thought Torts was pretty reserved and disappointed, but he certainly wasn’t a jerk about it.

And the story of the Flower is building, and it’s Friday, and Toronto needs to win tonight, and I’m watching other people’s hockey now, and I can’t get enough!

412LGP
412LGP

I bet you have to get the last word in at the dinner table don’t you.

Black_Sunshine
Black_Sunshine

Oh, I’m happy about the series too and enjoyed knocking Columbus out. I’m looking forward now. I’m an official Leafs fan for like 5 or 6 days, then I’ll hate them.

I can reminisce at the end of the journey, whenever that is.

chrisinindy
chrisinindy

Hopefully, we have a long way to go, brother. It’s a freakin’ journey this is, you’re on the money as usual. The Toronto’s are fast, the Wash D not so fast, that’s a huge game tonight in Wash. A little Bucs and other people’s pucks. I’m in!

musicman
musicman

Take into account the “friendly fire” goals that Columbus scored and Fleury’s save percentage would be a bit higher. He is the reason the Pens advanced.

Troy
Troy

I’ll be diplomatic about this…

I am really glad GMJR’s inclination to keep Flower through the playoffs is paying off. He made a gutsy move and is proving some people wrong. Great series by MAF and I say stick with him until he gives you reason to make a change if Murray gets healthy.

muzings
muzings

Glad to see the team did don’t want MAF to slip into a coma!! 😂😂😂

PlazMan
PlazMan

The fact that Tortaweenie thought his team had “over 30 chances” shows how completely out of tune he is with today’s NHL. Ian Cole’s retort was all you need to know, “We’d like to limit shots, for sure, but if their game plan is to shoot from anywhere, they’re going to get shots,” Cole said. “As long as we limit those Grade ‘As’ around the front of the net, we should limit their goals.” Shots and chances are not the same thing Tortaweenie.

lizard_kingbb
lizard_kingbb

MAF was great for sure, the team not so much. MAF will need to be Houdini if the Pens play the Craps (most likely opponent) and play like they did last night (or in the series, especially defensively). The Craps will finish much more than CBJ could. I am very fearful this team truly does not have what it takes to get past the 2nd round.

Black_Sunshine
Black_Sunshine

If the Pens aren’t better on D, they won’t be advancing past the second round. Both Washington and Toronto have goalies who are playing well enough to be significantly better than Bobrovsky.

It’s a great story with Flower and beating Torts and all, but bigger picture is that they need to be much better for a repeat. Last year’s team throttled the Sharks to TWO(!!!) shots on goal in the final period of the season. This year’s team would give up three off of the opening face-off of the period.

They can do it. It’s time to do so.

RockAye
RockAye

Hey to those of you reading for free today, welcome. And notice Matt’s writing and how he declines his chances to use typical hockey cliches and instead writes poignant observations that actually add value. You aren’t going to find stuff like this anywhere else – with writers actually going out of their way to offer something new. Well worth each penny!

ImEasyEd
ImEasyEd

And to those tuning in from Columbus:

Matt write good.

JC
JC

I second that! I think Matt has added another dimension to already great Penguins coverage. I am not a numbers person, but I always enjoy Matt’s articles where he breaks down stats to where they make sense, and brings context to the numbers. It’s always a good balance of stats and the old eye test. You can tell Matt puts a lot of thought and time into this features.

RockAye
RockAye

He has. Huge value added!

BlkN'Gld
BlkN'Gld

I love the style of writing at this site. All the content? great! The fact that it’s in one convenient place? awesome. But the reason this site is truly great is the seemingly free and fun conversational style you guys write with. Josh and Matt are the best in the business IMO.

He Shoots He Scores
He Shoots He Scores

Lot’s of Love for Flower, Pen’s fans are smart and they are going to miss him that’s for sure when this is over. Hopefully holding the cup for the 5th time. We like good things to happen to good people and Flower is not only a Penguin but a nice person as well. In this world of Aaron Hernandez’s it nice to root for a truly nice guy.

Matt B (@Talisker66)
Matt B (@Talisker66)

As a statistician, I have a problem with the statement “Murray’s .925 save percentage over the past two seasons blows away Fleury’s .916 over that span”. Given the sample sizes, i.e. # of shots, over the last 2 years (~2k for Murray and around ~3k for MAF) that is an erroneous statement, statistically speaking. Their save percentages are not statistically significantly different (at the 90%-level). So in making a prediction about the future, I’d say they’d perform pretty evenly.

I’d usually recuse myself from commenting on sports ‘analytics’, just to keep those parts of my brain separate. But this is a my pet-peeve, use statistics in sports but also use the wonderful statistical tests that can help interpret what they mean.

Also, I start MAF until he didn’t pass the ‘eye test’!

Langriley
Langriley

alpha = .10

jackdeloplane
jackdeloplane

90% of the game is half mental anyway.

littleguitargreg
littleguitargreg

Bloody brilliant that GMJR holds onto the flower during trade deadline.

Black_Sunshine
Black_Sunshine

Good stuff. I like the Pens chances with Fleury in net in any series where they have home ice advantage.

918deec
918deec

Lazarus~ Flower has made this year’s cup run all new again!

jackdeloplane
jackdeloplane

This may not be the forum for it, but I cannot believe there were no penalties called on the crosscheck to Jake on Crosby’s goal, the slash to malkin on Rust’s second and the crosscheck to Horny where his face dislodged the net. Unreal that the refs refuse to enforce the rules of the game. WORST officiated league in human history. Even the refs in Roman times sometimes called fouls on the Lions when they ate the Christians!

HistoricMike
HistoricMike

No one was a bigger proponent than me early last playoffs about leaving in Murray. He was hot and the hot hand plays. And for the same reasons the Flower should absolutely stay in this year.

Smiley57
Smiley57

Agreed. I don’t care what name is on the back of the jersey, just play the guy who’s getting it done.

87716681
87716681

Love that line about timely saves, that’s another hockey cliche that needs to go the way of the dodo.

Irishfeck
Irishfeck

As it stands now, there is no tough decision. It’s Flowers net until it isn’t. He’s earned the right to take this as far as he can. Even through a couple stumbles if they occur.

Frank Drebin
Frank Drebin

I don’t think there’s any way you can switch back to Murray now….or at least until Fleury has a real bad game or two. Fleury just won a series 4-1 against the third or fourth best record in the league. No brainer. Gotta ride the OTHER Cup winning goalie.

apyall
apyall

“Fleury was at the eye of a crease-centered hurricane, maybe not entirely calm but a game-saver nonetheless.”

I think you want another crack at this one, because the eye is the center of a hurricane, where it’s allegedly calm.

Fogle
Fogle

He is saying that Fleury was calm in his crease (the eye) even though just outside of it (eye wall) there was constant havoc.

apyall
apyall

I get it, but he called fluery the eye, which doesnt make sense, right?

edzo6687
edzo6687

It does–MAF was mostly calm.

MT
MT

I think the point was that he WASN’T calm, in relation to the eye of the storm being calm. But he got the job done.

One Cool Cat
One Cool Cat

Fleury was Great, let’s end it at that.

apyall
apyall

I perfectly understood his point, well, because I can read.

I was pointing out his metaphor, at least to me, made no logical sense.

apyall
apyall

Murray wasn’t tested, both mentally and physically, during the entire playoffs last year to the extent Monsieur Fluery was during this singular series.

I could not be happier for the Flower.

Suwanee88
Suwanee88

BS! My God you Fleury freaks are incredible!

Black_Sunshine
Black_Sunshine

Eh, that Washington series was pretty tight and challenging, but the Pens aren’t as good on D this year as they were last year. I just hope it doesn’t bite them in the ass.

RuPinto
RuPinto

Thank you apyall for for writing exactly what i feel. Go Pens!!!
Ps: i wish Matt could be the pens beat writer, just my opinion…

apyall
apyall

You’re welcome, but you may have spoke to soon about your ps, because I just ribbed him a bit, though in jest.

apyall
apyall

Fair enough. I’m just waiting for a dangling modifier one day, just so I can point it out and say “I’m on dangling modifier patrol” 😮

wpDiscuz
To Top