Scoring on old friend Marc-Andre Fleury will be challenging for Penguins
Before the Penguins face former teammate Marc-Andre Fleury and the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night, they might want to turn to defenseman Ian Cole for some advice.
After all, Cole is the only Penguins player to have scored on Fleury since he joined his new team, doing so during a 2-1 Vegas victory Dec. 14.
He will give them some very specific instructions.
“From a very experienced goal scorer on Marc-Andre Fleury, I would say the secret is to shoot from the goal line, with your feet below the goal line and the puck just over,” Cole said. “And you've still got to make sure you put it post and in because he's probably diving across.”
Cole was joking, of course, pretending that the exact formula he used to score on that December night is the kind of thing that is repeatable.
In reality, figuring out how to get pucks past their old pal should be a challenge for Penguins.
Among goalies with at least 20 appearances this season, Fleury's .939 save percentage is second best in the league. Even though he's 33, his quickness and athleticism don't look to have dropped off.
“He's such an athlete,” Cole said. “He's diving across. He's never out of a play, no matter how far away he's coming from, and his hand-eye is unbelievable. And he's showed the post enough love that they seem to maybe shrink the net a little bit for him sometimes.”
On most nights, the Penguins try to torment goaltenders with their skill, using an east-west style to get them out of position. Against Fleury, that's a dangerous tactic. Try to put together a highlight-reel passing play against him and he's the one who often will end up on the highlight reel.
Instead, the Penguins might be better served trying to beat Fleury with shot volume and traffic.
“You've got to get in his kitchen,” winger Tom Kuhnhackl said. “That's just the only way.”
Because of their familiarity with his game, there are a few other tips and tricks the Penguins might keep in mind as they try to solve Fleury.
For example, a well-placed dump-in can be trouble for Fleury, who always has been an adventurous stick-handler. Or when on a breakaway, it might be best to shoot rather than deke. Fleury is always ready to unleash a poke-check on an unsuspecting dangler.
In the middle of Fleury's career, the knock on him was a lack of concentration. He was like a shortstop who would make a spectacular diving play in the hole but boot a routine grounder.
Fleury has worked hard to shed that reputation.
“Any goalie, you're hoping they're going to give one up against you,” winger Carl Hagelin said, “but it doesn't happen very often nowadays.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.