It’s not often you can zero in on the exact turning point of a player’s season.
But in the case of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
, Nov. 12, 2010 was it.
The season’s start had been uncharacteristically rough for Fleury until that point. The normally happy-go-lucky netminder just hadn’t been his usual self on the ice, earning a 1-6 record through his first seven games and lacking his normal confidence and poise between the pipes.
But after that November night – a 5-1 win over Tampa Bay – something changed.
Fleury finished the game with 15 saves and became the seventh-youngest goalie in NHL history to reach 150 wins at 25 years, 349 days.
He garnered a standing ovation from the crowd at CONSOL Energy Center when he returned to the ice to salute them after earning ‘First Star’ honors, his trademark grin crept back onto his face and he went on to have the best season of his career to date.
“It was a rocky start, for sure,” Fleury admitted. “But after that I thought it was pretty good. I played more consistent than my previous years. I’m happy with that, and just the fact that we were fighting until the end for first place was fun.”
Fleury overcame that early adversity in a most emphatic fashion, being named the Penguins team MVP and garnering considerable recognition for league MVP.
He was the main reason the Penguins were able to battle for the top spot in both the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division until the final game due to his consistently excellent play.
“(My consistency) was something I was happy with,” Fleury said. “It’s maybe something I haven’t done in past seasons, with all of those little ups and downs throughout the season. So it was nice.”
Fleury finished the season with a magnificent 35-14-5 record since Nov. 12 to go with a 2.13 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. He tied a career high with a 14-game unbeaten stretch (13-0-1) that began that night and set a personal-best 11-game winning streak from Nov. 17 to Dec. 11.
And once a multitude of injuries befell the Penguins over the second half of the season, Fleury carried the team down the stretch.
He especially shined in tight contests, the importance of which cannot be understated with the majority of Pittsburgh’s injuries hitting its forward corps. Fleury posted a 21-8-5 record on the season in one-goal games.
“In difficult times, he’s been the backbone of our team and the most consistent performer,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “And that has given our team confidence to win hockey games, no matter what our lineup is, no matter what the score is.”
Despite his success last season, Fleury is hard at work preparing for the next one.
When asked what he planned to work on over the summer, Fleury responded: “Everything. … I won’t change my style drastically, but just working on little things like rebound control and playing the puck around the net. Little techniques. I’ll keep working at it and try to get better and faster.”
Posted a 2.52 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in seven games ... Stopped 32 shots in Game 1 to record his fifth career postseason shutout, second most in team history ... Places second in team history with 41 playoff victories and five postseason shutouts.2010-11 REGULAR SEASON:
Completed a Hart Trophy-caliber season with 36 wins, a .918 save percentage and a new career-best in goals-against average (2.32) ... His 36 wins ranked sixth (tied) in the NHL while his 2.32 GAA tied for seventh (minimum 35 games played) ... His 36 wins are fourth most in Penguins history ... The Penguins Team MVP posted an overall record of 36-20-5 with three shutouts ... Carried the injury-plagued team (350 man-games lost) down the stretch of the season ... Posted an outstanding 35-14-5 record since Nov. 12 to go with a 2.13 GAA and .926 save percentage ... Set a personal-best 11-game winning streak from Nov. 17 to Dec. 11 ... During 11-game winning streak, posted a 1.62 GAA and .945 save percentage ... Also tied a career high with a 14-game unbeaten streak (13-0-1) from Nov. 12 to Dec. 11 ... Hit the 35-win mark for the third-straight season and fourth time in last five years - only year he didn't was 2007-08, when he played only 35 games due to injury ... Set franchise record for longest shutout sequence in team history at 150:14 (Jocelyn Thibault - 136:13) ... Voted to first career All-Star Team ... Became seventh-youngest goalie to 150 wins (25 years, 349 days) with a victory vs. Tampa Bay Nov. 12 ... Went 8-2 in shootouts, stopping 32 of 38 shooters (84.2 percent).
|GP ||W ||L ||OT ||MIN ||GA ||GAA ||SV% |
|65 ||36 ||20 ||5 ||3695 ||143 ||2.32 ||.918 |
|GP ||W ||L ||OT ||MIN ||GA ||GAA ||SV% |
|7 ||3 ||4 ||0 ||347 ||16 ||2.77 ||.899 |
Photos courtesy of Getty Images Click here to view the full photo gallery of Marc-Andre Fleury during the 2010-11 season!
Below is a transcript of Marc-Andre Fleury's chat with the media on the Penguins' locker cleanout day on April 29.
On how much the team accomplished this season:
I think we surprised a lot of people with the way we finished the season. We definitely had a lot of injuries, missing some key guys, and our captain. I’m proud of the way the team played, still battling for first place there at the end.
On how he would assess his season:
It was a rocky start, for sure. But after that I thought it was pretty good. I played more consistent that my previous years. I’m happy with that, and just the fact that we were fighting ‘til the end for first place was fun.
On if he was disappointed he wasn’t a finalist for the Hart Trophy:
It would have been nice and a great honor. But it’s not such a big deal. I wish we could have kept winning instead and went far in the playoffs. That’s what’s more disappointing.
On if he heard from Team Canada:
Yes, I did. I just have a good opportunity to have a longer summer. The past couple years have been a lot of hockey with short summers. So I think it will be nice to relax, do something else and clear my head to get ready for next season.
On ending the season with the crowd giving him a standing ovation:
It’s definitely a nice feeling, but I’m still going home empty-handed. That’s a tough spot. Everybody here wants to win. When we lose in the first round, second round, it doesn’t matter how you lose. It’s always disappointing when you don’t get to the end.
On seeing Crosby and Malkin skate during the playoffs:
I think both guys were eager to come back. They did everything they could. Geno was rehabbing. With Sid it was a little different, but both guys wanted to play. There’s not much else they could have done.
On expectations for next year:
I think we had some good experiences here. I think a lot of guys stepped up and had great seasons. I think we’ll count on these same guys next season, and plus we’ll have Sid and Geno. That’s always our goal coming to camp and getting ready for our season, trying to win the Cup at the end.
On if he wonders what the series against Tampa would have been like with Crosby and Malkin:
We really don’t. Those are just what ifs. Everybody here gave all they had and everything they got, but it just didn’t go the right way.
On if he feels that he came into his own this year in terms of consistency:
That’s something I was happy with. It’s maybe something I haven’t done in past seasons, with all of those little ups and downs throughout the season. So it was nice to have a full year.
On what he plans to work on heading into next year:
Everything. Getting faster. I’m lucky to have Gilles here with me. Just little things. I won’t change my style drastically, but just working on little things like rebound control and playing the puck around the net. Little techniques. I’ll keep working at it and try to get better and faster.
On the inaugural season at CONSOL Energy Center being in the books:
I didn't like it at first to start with, but then I don’t know, it’s been nice. We have such a great dressing room, training facilities. I think it’s nice for the fans too, they have nicer stuff. They’ve done a great job, and I think we finished second (tied) in home wins, so that’s a good start.
On the playoff atmosphere:
That was fun. I think the last game was so tight and the crowd was loud. You could definitely hear it. It was exciting.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo