ShareThis Page

Fleury thrives in clutch situations

| Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is clearly among the NHL's elite performers, and when it comes to working overtime, he only gets better.

His evolution as a goaltender perhaps almost complete, Fleury has arguably become the NHL's most difficult man to beat in shootouts. He is perfect this season and has won 16 of his past 20 shootouts, something the Penguins have noticed.

"He's such a calming influence in those situations," center Dustin Jeffrey said. "He's just so good, so steady."

Fleury has refined his style over the years, leaning more on a sound positional approach instead of relying on his exceptional athleticism.

Of course, the athleticism that made Fleury the first overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft is still detectable in shootouts. Jeffrey shoots against Fleury every practice and often doesn't have much success.

"He's such a tough guy to read," Jeffrey said. "You know he's quick. That's the report everyone has. He's got that quick glove, and he moves side to side so well."

Fleury's bag of tricks, however, has expanded.

Islanders center John Tavares, among the league's best scorers, found out the hard way Thursday at Consol Energy Center. With a chance to send the shootout to a fourth round, Tavares attempted to deke Fleury.

The goaltender, in one of his favorite moves, used a poke check to thwart Tavares and end the game.

"It's just another wrinkle," Jeffrey said. "It just makes him harder to deal with."

The Penguins profess complete confidence in Fleury now more than ever, and for good reason. Following last season's poor start, he has been among the game's best goaltenders. He became an MVP candidate last season and is off to a 7-2 start.

"I can barely remember when he wasn't playing like this," defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "He obviously didn't have the start he wanted last year. Ever since then, he's been the best goalie I've ever seen."

Fleury has rejected all five shooters he's faced in shootouts this season, and although the Penguins have altered their overtime approach -- going conservative to force a shootout hasn't entered their minds yet -- they always know a victory is possible when a shootout begins.

"You always want to win in regulation," Lovejoy said. "But when we go to a shootout, we have so much confidence in him. We've got some shooters who have been pretty money for us. That, along with how he's playing in net, gives you that confidence."

Fleury enjoys shootout drills in practice seemingly more than anyone, often taking time to taunt shooters he has just stoned with an array of antics. He is always having fun in these drills, which perhaps translates to games.

"I am (having fun) when we win," he said. "It's different. I fool around with the guys in practice, but I see them every day. When it comes to comes, I have fun with it, but I have to stay focused and patient."

Whatever philosophy he's using is certainly working. The goalie who struggled early in his career in shootouts, much like the goalie who struggled last October, is a distant memory.

"We can take chances in overtime because we've got Flower back there," Jeffrey said. "And when it gets to the shootout, you know how good he is."

Additional Information:

Penguins game day


7 p.m. today, at Toronto, Air Canada Center

TV/radio: Root Sports/WXDX-FM (105.9), Penguins Radio Network

Last year's records: Penguins 49-25-8; Maple Leafs 37-34-11

Notable: Penguins right wing James Neal and Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel are tied for the league lead in goals with nine. Kessel leads the NHL with 16 points.

Puck stops here

Marc-Andre Fleury isn't just one of the NHL's best goalies but has also become almost unbeatable in shootouts, showing notable progression throughout his career.

Year, Record in shootouts, Saves, Goals, Shootout save percentage

2011-12, 2-0, 5, 0, 1.000

2010-11, 8-2, 38, 6, .842

2009-10, 6-2, 23, 6, .739

2008-09, 3-4, 22, 6, .727

2007-08, 1-0, 3, 0, 1.000

2006-07, 9-5, 39, 9, .769

2005-06, 0-2, 5, 4, .200

Totals, 29-15, 135, 31, .813

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.