On Nov. 6, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
surrendered two goals in just seven minutes at Phoenix, and was pulled from the game. It was no doubt the low point of the season for Fleury, dropping his record to 1-6 with a 3.53 goals-against average and .853 save percentage.
However, Fleury would bounce back from his shaky start to the 2010-11 campaign with one of the most remarkable turnarounds in his career that just earned him a selection to the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, NC later this month.
After that loss to Phoenix, Fleury went on a 13-0-1 unbeaten run, tying for the longest unbeaten streak in his career (12-0-2; Jan. 13-Feb. 16, 2007), and helped the Penguins win 12 consecutive games.
“He’s been the backbone of our team,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He’s made big saves, has been outstanding when the team has played well in front of him and he had to make a couple saves. The one All-Star pick that pleases me the most is his for the way he’s played and turned it around. I feel the fans are part of that one.”
His turnaround all started with a little help from his friends – Penguins fans.
As Fleury took the ice for the Penguins’ Nov. 12 contest against the offensively dangerous Tampa Bay Lightning at CONSOL Energy Center, the 26-year-old netminder was greeted by the Penguins faithful with a supportive chant of “Fleury! Fleury!”
Fleury responded by stopping 15 of 16 shots in a 5-1 win.
“We came back after the road trip, particularly the game in Phoenix. He came out to start the next game and the fans willed a good game on Marc-Andre Fleury
,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “They were cheering his name. The “Fleury” chant was going. It was a little bit different, but similar to the chant we heard at the start of Game 6 against the Red Wings in the Final. He responded with a great game and outstanding hockey since then.”
“That was big,” Fleury said of the fans’ support. “I was having a tough time, and at the beginning of the game, the crowd was behind me and cheering. It was good feeling, and a little boost of confidence before the game. It was a close game, a little bit, but after that, things got a lot better.
“It was definitely a tough game to play. But stepping on the ice and having such great support from the fans knowing they were behind me and helping me out through the game to get a win out of it, things started to get better.”
Fleury, who boasts a 17-9-2 record, 2.31 goals-against average and .918 save percentage on the season, was the top-voted goaltender in fan balloting for the All-Star Game with 462,305 votes. Not only did the fans help Fleury turnaround his season, they elected him to his first-ever All-Star Game.
“I got some support from family and friends back home voting for me. So I want to thank them and the Pittsburgh fans,” Fleury said. He continued, “Growing up, I never really thought I would make it to the NHL. It was always just a dream. I’ve always been a big fan of the NHL and the All-Star Game. So to now be here and have a chance to go, I think it will be a pretty cool feeling.”
Fleury, who will be joined by teammates Sidney Crosby
, Evgeni Malkin
and Kris Letang
, became just the second Penguins goaltender in franchise history to be named to the All-Star Game, joining Michel Dion who earned a trip in the 1981-82 season.
“Michel Dion? Really? That’s pretty surprising,” Fleury said. Although he quickly realized why both men made the All-Star team, the number on the back of the sweater. “No. 29, right? It’s the lucky number.”
But there is nothing lucky about Fleury’s nomination to the All-Star Game. He overcame early-season adversity and earned his right to play among the best player in the NHL. Although the outpouring of fan support didn’t hurt his cause.
“It means we have great fan support, definitely,” Fleury said. “I want to say thank you to all the fans that voted for us. It’s pretty cool that we get to go there together and enjoy our time.”