It was just over a week ago that many so called “fans” of the Pittsburgh Penguins were ready to run Marc-Arndre Fleury out of town. The Penguins had just come off of a 5 -4 loss to the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of their best of 7 series in which the “Flower” gave up 5 goals on 26 shots. This equated to a pedestrian .807 save percentage, and in the eyes of many, it wasn’t just that he let in 5 goals but the fact that at least a few of them were easily preventable. The call went out from many of these same folks for the Pens to start Brent Johnson in Game 2. Fortunately, the Penguins are run by very sound management that is way too smart to listen to the rantings of the lunatic fringe. Fleury was back to start Game 2 and although he let in what could be considered a questionable goal on Ottawa’s very first shot, he quickly got his bearings even after being jeered by some of his own fans when he did make an easy save on the next puck that trickled his way.
Since giving up that first goal in the opening minutes of Game 2, Fleury has held Ottawa to 6 goals in almost 3 complete games, and 2 of those goals came during 5 on 3 power plays for Ottawa. Fleury stopped 65 of the next 71 shots he faced for a much better save percentage of .915, and again, if you remove the two 5 on 3 goals, the percentage is even higher. Fleury’s career save percentage is only .907 which means he’s even playing above his usual rate which he tends to do once the games have more significance. Remember, this is the same guy that held the Detroit Red Wings to 2 goals total in Games 6 and 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals last year.
If you take a look at the goalies playing for the other teams in the playoffs right now, I think Fleury gives the Penguins a huge advantage.
Washington: Has already switched from Theodore to Varlamov, and he is still basically in his first season.
New Jersey: Martin Brodeur may have every goaltending record in the books, but his play against Philadelphia this year both in the regular season and the playoffs is mind boggling. Philly just seems to have his number.
Buffalo: While Ryan Miller may be an MVP candidate this year as well as one of the front runners for the Vezina Trophy, his team just can’t score goals, and Miller won’t be able to shut out the opposition every night.
Boston: Tukka Rask has had a fantastic rookie season, but rookies just do not survive the playoff grind
Philadelphia: Does anyone really believe that Brian Boucher can carry them beyond the first round?
Out West, it doesn’t seem any better:
San Jose: Evgeni Nabokov, has there ever been a bigger playoff underachiever?
Detroit: Jimmy Howard (See Tukka Rask above)
Chicago: Antti Niemi (See Jimmy Howard), and if he falters, what do they really have…..Crystal Ball Huet???
Vancouver: Roberto Luongo. He’s about the only one I would put at Fleury’s level.
Nashville: Pekka Rinne. Playing unbelievable in his first playoff action, but see Buffalo Sabres above
Phoenix: Ilya Bryzgalov. Another Vezina and possibly even Hart candidate. He keeps them in a lot games, but again, first year playoff performers eventually wear down from the grind.
Los Angeles: Jon Quick (See Bryzgalov except for those Vezina and Hart comments)
Colorado: Craig Anderson. The only reason that Colorado is tied with San Jose right now is because of Anderson, but how many times can he face 51 shots and expect to stop them all while his team only generates 21?
So after reading this entire list, tell me, who would you rather have than “The Flower”? The answer for all of you Brent Johnson fans and Fleury hecklers is this man right here: