When the Stanley Cup Playoffs first started this year, it appeared that it was going to be another rough one for Pittsburgh Penguins' goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
While Fleury and his teammates were able to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in the first round, Fleury did not make it easy on himself. This was especially the case in Game 4 when he gave up the puck behind the net that led to the Blue Jackets tying goal with less than 30 seconds to go and followed that bad goal up by allowing another one in overtime to Blue Jackets' foward Nick Foligno.
For hockey fans and pundits alike, they more than thought that this would be another year in which Fleury would be the culprit for a Penguins' early exit when it mattered most. Heck, it would be safe to say that may be even the Penguins' organization was thinking the same way.
Don't look now, but Fleury has responded in a big way in the second round against the New York Rangers and has his team up 2-1. After a so-so tilt in Game 1 in which his club lost 3-2 in overtime, Fleury went out and was perfect in Games 2 and 3.
That's right, folks. The goaltender that has struggled mightily in the postseason over the last few years posted back-to-back shutouts and stopped a combined 57 shots in the process.
There are several reasons why Fleury has been able to silence his critics over the last two games. For starters, in picking up two shutouts, he has not allowed any soft goals.
In his team's series against the Blue Jackets, it was soft goals allowed that ended up hurting his team the most. Both the tying goal and overtime-winning goal in Game 4 should have never happened if Fleury had played it right.
In Games 2 and 3 against the Blueshirts, Fleury has stopped the shots he is expected to stop and has not allowed any pucks to go through him. As a result, he has not put his team in a difficult situation while also enabling both himself and the coaching staff to gain more confidence in the 29-year-old masked man.
Secondly, Fleury has kept his game simple. He has not made too many erratic movements between the pipes, has kept the play in front of him, and has put himself in good position to not only stop the first shot, but second and third shots as well.
This was especially the case last night in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden. Fleury made some good saves last night because he was in good position for the first shot and when he did give up rebounds, he was in position to make the second and third stops to frustrate the Blueshirts.
Lastly, it is clear that Fleury is playing with a lot of confidence right now. Having stopped 57 straight shots and with his team up two games to one in the series, Fleury's good play has his team within two victories of getting to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight season.
While there is still a good amount of hockey left to be played, it is clear that Fleury is on top of his game and for the Pittsburgh Penguins, his timing could not be any better than it is right now with Game 4 on tap for tomorrow night at MSG.