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Penguins Update: Flower in Full Bloom – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: Flower in Full Bloom

From the moment he first skated onto an NHL rink as a callow 19-year-old, Marc-Andre Fleury flashed the extraordinary flexibility and cat-like reflexes that had pro scouts drooling. Attributes that encouraged then-Penguins GM Craig Patrick—seeking a franchise goalie—to trade up in the 2003 Entry Draft to take the Cape Breton marvel No. 1 overall.

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A dozen years down the road? Fleury is firmly entrenched as the (black and) gold standard among Pens goalies, surpassing former great Tom Barrasso. “Flower’s” the all-time leader in virtually every major category, including games (606), victories (329), and shutouts (40).

Considering his willowy 6’2” frame, he’s been remarkably durable. Seven seasons with over 60 starts. He’s appeared in two NHL All-Star games. Did I mention he owns a Stanley Cup ring?

It hasn’t all been a bed of roses. Flower’s drawn his share of heat, mostly over his checkered postseason past. Others have questioned his mental toughness and coolness under fire. Indeed, it’s been a worrisome thread for the likeable goalie through the years.

Remember the 2013 playoffs? When Flower’s porous play between the pipes forced then-coach Dan Bylsma to go with journeyman Tomas Vokoun, his confidence seemed all but shattered.

Alarmed by the meltdown, the Penguins arranged for Fleury to see a sports psychologist. However, the true turning point occurred in August 2013 when Ray Shero promoted Mike Bales to succeed Gilles Meloche as goaltending coach.

The former NHL netminder quickly developed a rapport with Flower. Together, they began to smooth the rough edges from Fleury’s game without detracting from the breathtaking athleticism that long ago made No. 29 a darling of the highlight videos.

The result? Fleury’s more fundamentally sound. His movements more economical. In particular, he’s learned to control the rebounds that used to pop off his pads like so many gumballs spouting from a dispenser.

Something else changed—and quite audibly. Something in Fleury’s psyche. Never before has the native of Sorel, Quebec been so rock-solid. So steely. You see it in his eyes. On the rare occasions he yields a goal, you sense his determination. I’m not allowing another one.

A truly remarkable transformation.

His numbers this season? Terrific. Seven wins (including two shutouts), a microscopic 1.74 goals against, and a sterling .939 save percentage. Arguably the Pens’ best player, the reigning team MVP’s been the backbone behind the black-and-gold’s surprising 9-4 start.

Like a fine wine he’s improving with age.

Dupuis Hospitalized

Pascal Dupuis was taken to an Edmonton hospital as a precaution on Friday. There was concern that his symptoms were linked to the blood clot that sidelined the ultra-popular winger for all but 16 games last season.

“We’ve said all along that Pascal’s health is the highest priority,” GM Jim Rutherford told the Penguins website. “We will take every precaution necessary to ensure he is in good health.”

Thankfully, the tests were negative.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Pascal.

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2 Comments

  1. jim's Gravatar jim
    November 7, 2015 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,
    Totally agree.
    3 or 4 years ago I would have traded him for a bag of Hockey pucks.But whatever they did to him 2 years ago, since then he has been amazing.Simply put, with out Fleury this team is going no where.( Can not believe I said that).
    We look at the standings and say we have the best defensive record in the league. The truth is Fleury has kept us in almost every game this year.
    It is like the Rangers or the Devils of 10 years ago.Take King Hendrick or Brodeur away from those teams,nobody would remember them.The 2015 Pens have became the same.Pray to God he stays healthy.

    Thanks Again Rick.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      November 8, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      It’s always good to hear from you and I always enjoy reading your opinions. And thank you for being such a faithful reader and commenter … 🙂

      I was always a Fleury supporter. While I never considered him a true upper-echelon goalie due to his gaffes (“Fleury Follies”) and penchant for allowing the occasional soft goal, I thought he was good enough on a team that was as stacked offensively as our Pens.

      Then came the shocking first-round loss to the Flyers in 2012 (still smarting over that one) when the entire team came unglued. While it’s hard to pin that one on Flower, he certainly contributed. But the following year against the Islanders? He just seemed to fall apart. His positioning was terrible—he was constantly spread-eagled on the ice six or seven feet in front of the net. And he couldn’t seem to catch or freeze the puck to save his life. (See my following PP post if you’d like to read more).

      http://www.penguinpoop.com/2013/penguins-replace-fading-flower-for-game-5/

      I really wasn’t sure he’d ever recover. But give him a ton of credit. He took to Bales’ instruction like a duck to water and has steadily transformed into a legit franchise goalie.

      By all accounts, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Or better teammate.


            

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