Pens' Fleury, Bales form winning combination
MONTREAL — If the Penguins celebrate a championship in June, one relationship will have played a large part.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and goaltending coach Mike Bales didn't know each other when the Penguins hired Bales this summer. But the result has been some of the finest, steadiest play of Fleury's career.
“Marc-Andre had only one voice and one goalie coach (Gilles Meloche) for a long time,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “That relationship with Mike is still building. It's built on a foundation of trust.”
Fleury said he feels comfortable with Bales, who played more than a decade in North America and overseas.
“It's been really good,” Fleury said. “We've gotten to know each other a little bit.”
There is nothing revolutionary about Bales' teaching methods. He has not, however, orchestrated sweeping changes to Fleury's game. In fact, he doesn't tell Fleury to do anything.
Instead, he makes occasional suggestions.
“It's never me saying, ‘Hey, you've to do this,' ” Bales said. “And it's never him saying, ‘I have to do this.' It's more like, ‘Hey, let's go work on some things.' ”
Fleury has started — and finished — 20 games this season and has allowed more than three goals in a game only twice.
Considering the Penguins' offense has stalled recently, his performance has been necessary to keep the team atop the Metropolitan Division.
“He's just been so good,” center Brandon Sutter said. “He's keeping us in every game.”
Bales faced a seemingly daunting task when he joined the Penguins.
Fleury, 28, appeared to be broken last spring despite being a Stanley Cup champion and a two-time Cup finalist.
Bylsma pulled him in favor of Tomas Vokoun following Game 4 of the opening playoff round against the New York Islanders. Fleury played only once more, a cameo that did not go well during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final against the Boston Bruins.
Bales, however, discovered Fleury wasn't broken.
“I knew he was very talented,” Bales said. “The only thing that has surprised me a little bit is just how physically talented he is. I didn't realize how gifted he is. With Marc, he can pick up new things and immediately make the adjustment into his game.”
Fleury gets to play in Boston on Monday. When the Penguins last played at TD Garden, Vokoun was in net. Now it's Fleury's show.
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