helped the Penguins reach the Stanley Cup Final last season.
He hopes to do it again.
Fleury was stellar in goal for the Penguins as they marched to Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference championships last spring. He went 10-2-2 in his final 14 regular-season appearances after missing 34 games with high ankle sprain.
He was stellar in the playoffs as well. He started all 20 games for the Penguins and finished with a 14-6 record. He led all playoff goaltenders in save percentage (.933), tied for first in wins and finished second in goals-against average (1.97).
“I am really excited to get started again. We had such a good end of the season. That was our goal, to improve all year and win the Cup and we were so close. We have some unfinished business to take care of,” said Fleury as the Penguins opened training camp on Tuesday. “That’s what we play for – to win the Cup. To get so close and have that taste during the playoffs – it’s so fun to play hockey. People are really into it. I know our fans were right behind us all the way and it would have been great to get a Cup, but that’s something we want to do.”
However, Fleury knows that the Penguins must not look too far ahead. They have to center their focus on working hard in training camp to start the season well.
“We can’t look ahead. I think that’s something we did well last year. We just focused on camp and taking one game at a time and trying to climb up the standings,” he said. “Last year, we really didn’t know what to expect. We had lots of young guys with little experience and that’s not something you can get in practice. You have to live it to have it and to make it that far in the playoffs, I think it’s great for us.”
While the Penguins had a short summer to train and prepare for this season, Fleury knows the greatest strength the players gained was the experience of last year’s playoff run.
“The experience we gained toward the end of the year is something you cannot work on during the year or in the summer. I think it made everyone on the team better going through that,” he said.
Once he recovered from a high ankle sprain, Fleury was on top of his game. He won seven straight starts from March 9-30 and was 9-1-1 in the month of March with a 1.44 goals-against average and .951 save percentage.
“I just felt good coming back and it seemed like everything was going right. Everyone was playing well in front of me, too,” he said. “I knew that if I made some saves during the game, we’d have a good chance of winning the game.”
Fleury’s play earned him a seven-year contract extension this summer.
“We have such a young group of guys, so to be able to be signed for a long time and be able to stick with these guys is awesome,” he said.
He joins Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Ryan Whitney and Brooks Orpik as Penguins who took less money to remain in Pittsburgh for multiple years.
“The fans are awesome. They sold out all the games last year and part of them the year before that. All the people in the city always encourage us. I really like the city; it’s a good place for hockey. I really like the guys on our team. We have a chance at winning and that’s always important,” Fleury said. “Through my first couple years here, it was a little tough because we weren’t winning many games. It’s such a good feeling to be on a winning team. There’s no way I wanted to change that.”
While the Penguins return many players from last season, they also have some new personnel this year.
“It’s tough losing guys you have played with for a long time and you’re good friends with, but that’s the business side of hockey,” Fleury said. “Ray Shero did a great job to get some new guys and they are very nice guys and they should fit in well with us.”
CAMP SESSIONS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC THIS WEEK:
Penguins training camp at Mellon Arena is open to the general public this week, free of charge. Players will be on the ice in various groups on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fans may enter through Mellon Arena Gate 1 starting at 8:45 a.m. Parking in arena lots will be based on availability and daily parking rates will apply because these are weekdays. Concession stands and PenStation, the Penguins’ official team store, will be open inside Mellon Arena.