The Pittsburgh Penguins are winning and as always, that is a delight to the Consol Energy Center as Sidney Crosby and the team are off to a hot 2-0 start. Still, the biggest star thus far in the season is one that does not have a point.
The chants of “Fleury, Fleury, Fleury” are back and so is No. 29. The last time he was on the ice before this season was actually on the bench while Tomas Vokoun was receiving the applause and recognition in the playoffs. Many thought that when he was pulled in the first round against the Islanders that Fleury’s time in a Penguins uniform was done.
Fleury has been labeled as a player who only performs in the regular season and once the playoffs come is a different player. Fleury has taken the proper steps, seeing a sports psychologist and making necessary sacrifices.
Fleury still maintains the same personality, but does so while toning it down. He is not bouncing off of walls as he used too after a big save. Instead he is locked in and waiting for the next faceoff.
“Flower’s been so great,” center Brandon Sutter told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You can talk all you want about playing better defensively in front of him and stuff like that. And that’s obviously important. But the fact is, in these first two games, he’s been really, really good.”
Fleury has two years left on his contract and with opinion on him down he knows this is an important year. With Vokoun now out for an extended period of time, this is his chance to win back Penguins fans as Jeff Zatkoff behind him is rather unproven.
So far Fleury has passed the test and made the necessary sacrifices including avoiding media before games on game day. This shows that he wants to eliminate possible distractions and focus all of his energy on the games.
The results so far include three huge saves in the final five minutes against a New Jersey Devils team determined to end a shutout. The lone goal Fleury has allowed took a major league effort from Buffalo star Thomas Vanek. That sends the right message to the team and opponents: their best efforts will be stopped night in and night out.
Yes this is a small sample size, but if Fleury continues to bring it the way he has, we’re talking not just a Vezina Trophy but a very deep run in the playoffs with No. 29 in goal the entire time.