2013 Postseason Could Be Marc-Andre Fleury's Last Chance With Pens by @MadChad412 - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

2013 Postseason Could Be Marc-Andre Fleury's Last Chance With Pens by @MadChad412



It would be a difficult task for you to find a bigger Marc-Andre Fleury supporter than yours truly. Fleury has been one of my favorite athletes since he was drafted number one overall in the 2003 NHL draft. I have supported Fleury through the good times and the bad times with constant defense of his playing abilities. That being said, there is a realistic chance that 2013 is Fleury's last time in a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey.

Ryan Lambert, from Puck Daddy, wrote that the Pens have to get rid of Fleury. In his article Lambert crushes Fleury for his poor postseason play since winning the Cup, and even suggests that the Pens buyout Fleury's contract. Fleury is due $5 million next year and the Pens have little cap room to re-sign a bunch of players that includes Pascal Dupuis and Jarome Iginla. 

I think suggesting such things is a little premature, and I'm the guy that wrote off Dan Bylsma last week. The Pens made it out of the first round. They won the four games that they needed to win, Fleury having won two of those games for them, including a shutout.

Lambert, along with other Fleury critics have a fair point though. It has become tougher and tougher to defend #29  with the soft goals allowed and terrible numbers over the past three postseasons.



In the 2007-2008 postseason, Fleury helped the Pens make it to the Stanley Cup finals and was terrific in doing so. Fleury posted Conn Smythe worthy numbers had the Pens won the Cup, finishing 14-6, with a G.A.A. of 1.97, and save percentage of .933.

The following year the Pens won the Stanley Cup, and Fleury was amazing in both game six and game seven against the Detroit Red Wings, allowing just one goal in each game. Fleury even made a historic save on legend Nicklas Lidstrom at the end of game seven. Pens' fans will never forget that.

Unfortunately, it's been all downhill since then for Fleury. In his last 30 playoff starts, Fleury is 14-16 with 92 goals allowed. Last year, Fleury was really bad, giving up 26 goals in six-game series loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Fleury's 4.62 goals-against average for that series horrific. Fleury was trying to match that this year by giving up 14 goals in the first four games, technically giving up those 14 goals in games two-four. Yikes. Look I like Fleury but there is no defending that. That is not acceptable from a franchise goalie. And as a Fleury fan I expect much better from him.

That's the crazy thing, it's not like Fleury sucks. In the regular season he's been getting better and better. He finished in the top half of the league in both goals-against-average and save percentage this year. In 2011-2012 season Fleury finished second in the league with 42 wins along with better than average numbers. The year before that he was the Pens' team MVP, guiding them to the playoffs despite the fact that Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby both missed the second half of the season.

The point of all of this is Fleury is proven and has a pedigree. He doesn't "suck" like so many people suggest on social media sites. However, I fear that if Fleury doesn't fix his postseason problems in this postseason, the Pens might have to look to move the netminder.

Fleury's contract is up after next season. You can either eat money and buy him out or you could just give him one more year with the franchise and let him walk after next year. But, what if Fleury plays again this postseason and plays bad? How could you bring him back again after four straight lousy playoff outings? Especially when he's going to make $5million next year. I don't think they can or will.

I can see Fleury being traded if he falters this postseason with another chance in net. I can see another team needing a more consistent goaltender offering at least some draft picks and/or prospects for Fleury. The thing that scares me about getting rid of Fleury is, do the Pens really plan on having Eric Hartzell as their future? He's never even seen NHL action before. Do the Pens use Vokoun and other veteran goalies like him as stop-gaps until they find a solid replacement for their long-term future?

This all being purely hypothetical of course.

I would suggest in playing Fleury though, especially against the Ottawa Senators. Fleury was 2-0 against Ottawa during the regular season, posting a .957 save percentage. Fleury deserves one last chance. If the Pens can play consistent defense and have less turnovers, Fleury's numbers should get better by default. (See game one against the New York Islanders)

 I think Fleury has it in him to turn this all around. Fundamentally, he needs to play deeper in his crease so that he is in better positions for rebounds. The bad news is with Fleuy it seems like all of his problems are mental. He keeps making silly mistakes that can be avoided with confidence and full concentration.

Tomas Vokoun played well in his two wins to help the Pens' move past the first round. He's a great backup goalie that seems ready to use any chance possible to prove he can win a Stanley Cup. In defense of Fleury, the Pens did seem make less mistakes as a team in games five and six, but Vokoun still faced a brigade of shots in game six, and he had 31 saves in a shutout win.

I do not envy Pens' coach Dan Bylmsa with his current goaltending dilemma. Do you ride the "hot hand" in Vokoun or do you give Fleury another chance? Is it smarter to play Vokoun until he falters and then go back to Fleury, or is it smarter to play Fleury with a fresh start in game one, and if he fails again, go to Plan B? I like the latter but realistically either could work.

Chances are Fleury will start game one against Ottawa. I think that's the right call, but I aslo think that he will be on the shortest leash ever. When Fleury does get another chance this postseason, I just hope he makes the most of it. If he wants to be with the Pens the  rest of the prime of his career, for his sake he has to.

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