In 2009, Marc-Andre Fleury was on top of the world. Fleury was finally a Stanley Cup champion, having backstopped the Pittsburgh Penguins to their 1st Stanley Cup championship since 1992. At this point in his career, he owned a 111-85-26 record with a 2.87 GAA, .906 SV%, and 15 shutouts in the regular season. While those numbers may not seem spectacular, Fleury at this point in his career always found a way to raise his game in the playoffs. After the 2009 playoffs, Fleury had a 31-18 record with a 2.45 GAA, a .916 SV%, and 3 shutouts. His playoff winning percentage of .633% was better than Hall of Famers Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, and Eddie Belfour. Those 3 goalies are 3 of the 4 winningest goalies in NHL playoff history. So that’s some big company.
However, something drastically changed for Marc-Andre Fleury. Since that Stanley Cup championship, here are his numbers:
Regular Season: 138-66-15, 2.44 GAA, .913 SV%, 8 SO
Playoffs: 14-16, 3.16 GAA, .881 SV%, 3 SO
However, I don’t think that fully illustrates the point I want to make so let’s just look at Fleury’s last 10 playoff games:
10 GP, 4-6, 4.11 GAA, .860 SV%, 1 SO
What the heck? I thought that once a goaltender won a championship, they figured out how to handle the stress of the playoffs. Instead, Fleury has regressed to the point that memes such as this are popping up to describe his play. And it’s not like the defense has gotten significantly worse. In 2010-2011, just 2 seasons ago, Fleury ranked 7th in the NHL in Defense-Independent Goaltender Rating, a metric that adjusts for how bad or good a team’s defense is. That proves that regardless of the defense in front of him, Fleury posted the 7th best save percentage. So let’s take a look and see if maybe there is something that Fleury is doing differently with his positioning or movement, or if this is just something mental that has gotten into his head.
Well…what I was going to do was go back and show you how Fleury is playing positionally different than he does in the regular season. I wanted to find tape on how Fleury’s glove is hanging low, or his stick isn’t flat on the ice, or that he isn’t playing sound butterfly technique. Instead, I found a series of mental errors that have cost his team some enormous goals.
I’ll go frame-by-frame on the next two blunders (Pens fans avert your eyes)
Fleury has just stopped the first shot and is tracking the rebound as it makes its way out to the point.
Fleury is back on his feet and is watching as New York Islanders‘ defenseman Mark Streit winds up for the shot. The first mistake here is that Fleury is not even close to being in proper position. Per the butterfly technique, a goalie should be on their knees, with their shoulders square to the shooter, and completely motionless in the instant prior to a shot being fired. Fleury is nowhere near any of that.
The shot has been fired by Streit and Fleury is still standing straight up, nowhere near being in proper position. Unacceptable.
I just don’t understand this. Fleury gets caught between two moves…and falls down. Yes bad things happen. Yes a goalie’s skate can get caught in a rut and they can fall down. However, there is no excuse for it in this situation. Fleury makes a routine save, watches the rebound travel 55 feet out to the point and in that time makes ZERO effort to get ready. Where is the urgency? This is the NHL playoffs!
Here’s inexcusable play #2 from last night’s game:
Fleury makes the initial save here. No problem at all. He’s exhibiting good butterfly technique and makes a solid save.
Fleury gets turned around as his defenseman runs into him. Again, we still have no problem here. All Fleury has to do is find the post and re-establish position. I’ll give you a hint – THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED.
Oh that’s right – Fleury just stays put. He doesn’t even bother getting his left pad up against the post to prevent a shot to the front of the net. Fleury literally just stays in the crunched position. Some of you may argue that Fleury didn’t have enough time to get back into position. I’m not saying that Fleury should have been able to completely recover, just that he should have been able to get his pad back into position and recover the post. Again, this is just a lack of urgency and it is inexcusable in the playoffs.
I don’t really know what to say anymore. I don’t want to trash the man because he’s a Stanley Cup champion. His 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup playoff runs were incredible. In those two playoff seasons, he posted a 30-14 record with a 2.31 GAA and a .920 SV%. We saw Fleury make some incredible saves, one of which is shown below. It’s just appalling to me that a man of his talent, of his caliber, can lose focus in the most crucial moments, after he already figured out the level of concentration it takes to win the Stanley Cup. In my honest opinion, I believe that Penguins’ coach Dan Bylsma needs to give Tomas Vokoun a shot. Vokoun has very limited playoff experience, having played just 11 games, with his last appearance occurring in the 2007 playoffs. However, in his 11 playoff games, Vokoun has proven very worthy, posting a 2.47 GAA and a .922 SV%. Maybe if Fleury sees that he can’t keep his job with his current level of play, he will take some time to figure out exactly what it is that is preventing him from playing at his highest level.