Prior to Sunday’s game against Florida, head coach Dan Bylsma was asked who he thought should be awarded the team’s Most Valuable Player Award.
“Marc-Andre (Fleury),” Bylsma said without hesitation.
The fans in the stands at CONSOL Energy Center on Sunday afternoon were on the same page as coach, as they started chanting “Fleury! Fleury” before the winner was officially announced.
They were both proven right, as Fleury was named the Penguins’ Most Valuable Player during Pittsburgh’s annual team awards ceremony, which took place on the ice prior to the 1:13 p.m. puck drop.
"It was nice," Fleury said of the honor. "I wasn’t really expecting that. It’s a great thing to have."
Bylsma said the reasons were endless as to why the Penguins’ netminder deserved such accolades.
“I think he’s been the backbone of our team, even when we won 12 in a row with Sidney Crosby
," he said.
“In difficult times, he’s been the backbone of our team and the most consistent performer. And that has given our team confidence to win hockey games, no matter what our lineup is, no matter what the score is. If it has to be a 2-1 game or a 0-0 game, he’s the guy that’s given us the confidence. He’s giving confidence to our penalty kill, to our defense. For our team to be able to play and believe we can win hockey games and be a successful team stems from his play.”
Fleury’s stats alone speak for themselves.
He has posted a stellar 32-15-5 record since Nov. 12 to go along with a 2.09 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage and has allowed two or fewer goals in 32 of his past 49 starts.
During Sunday's game, he even established a new Penguins franchise record by not allowing a goal for a span of 150:14 minutes.
“Flower” has accomplished all of that despite the Penguins suffering 319 man-games lost due to injury (they lost 185 all of last season), keeping the team in the hunt for both the top spot in Eastern Conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
In difficult times, he’s been the backbone of our team and the most consistent performer. And that has given our team confidence to win hockey games, no matter what our lineup is, no matter what the score is. - Head coach Dan Bylsma, on Marc-Andre Fleury
While the Penguins do have one of the league’s most solid back ends led by Kris Letang
, Brooks Orpik
, Paul Martin
and Zbynek Michalek
, Bylsma cautioned not to underestimate the caliber of work Fleury has done between the pipes.
“Our team has played well defensively, and we do have good team defense and good defenseman, but Marc-Andre has buoyed that and given that confidence,” Bylsma said. “Without that, and without his good year, without his numbers and without his wins, I don’t think we’d stand anywhere near 96 points.”
It’s that ability to perform under pressure that makes him not only the Penguins’ MVP, but a candidate for the league’s MVP award as well.
“We’ve been in a lot of situations where the pressure has been there, and the games have been big in playoffs series and Game 7s, and you rarely see anything different from Marc-Andre but a flash of the smile and the humble wit that he has,” Bylsma said.
“But he goes about his business and he’s got that smirk and smile that he always brings to his game. Again, I really believe he’s having an MVP season.”
Fleury was also awarded the A.T. Caggiano Memorial Booster Club Cup award. Brooks Orpik
was awarded the Players’ Player Award, where the players hold a vote at the end of the season for the player they feel exemplifies leadership for the team, both on and off the ice, and a player dedicated to teamwork.
For the full list of team award winners, click here