Can Penguins continue to count on Fleury?

After a rough start, Marc-Andre Fleury settled in against the Jackets. (Photo: AP/Gene J. Puskar)

There’s no doubt that Marc-Andre Fleury can put up great numbers in the regular season but the Pittsburgh Penguins netminder plays like a different goaltender in the post-season.

It’s clear that Fleury, 28, has a split-personality when in between the pipes. The good side wins games, plays confidently and doesn’t get rattled while the bad side is a nightmare not only for himself, but for the Penguins as it has led to nothing but playoff failure.

With that in mind, let’s examine what precautions both the team and Fleury are taking to make sure he plays well in all situations.

Fleury the Good

When it comes to the regular season, the Penguins seem almost unbeatable. Obviously, one can point to the team’s high-octane offence but another reason for the team’s success is the play of their franchise goaltender.

Since the 2009-10 season, Fleury has averaged close to 35 wins a season. Not only that, but Fleury has also posted respectable numbers across the board and picked up eight shutouts.

More importantly, his head appears to be in the right place in the regular season. When he does allow a bad goal, he shows that he can bounce back and make the big save when his team needs it the most.

Fleury the Bad

It is the other side of Fleury that has come under scrutiny and one that has many fans and people throughout the game wondering whether or not Fleury is the guy for the Penguins moving forward.

This part of Fleury rears its ugly head in the post-season. This was the especially the case in the last two years against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round in 2012 and then against the New York Islanders in the first round this past season.

In the last two postseasons combined, Fleury is 4-6 and has allowed 43 goals in 11 games., Fleuryn struggled so much against the Islanders that Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma decided to pull him and put in Tomas Vokoun, who played the rest of the post-season for the club.

Rectifying the Situation

Due to his struggles in the last two years, the Penguins suggested that Fleury see a sports psychologist to help clear his head and get him to utilize a better mental approach.

When asked about it back in late July, Penguins general manager Ray Shero told Pittsburgh Tribune-Review sports columnist Joe Starkey that it would be beneficial for Fleury to take this step.

“Goalie is a delicate position, no different than a golfer or a tennis player. You’re on your own a lot,” Shero said. “I think it’s a good step for him, which he’s really taken seriously since our year-end meeting.”

Fleury told Sports Illustrated that he agreed with his general manager that meeting with a sports psychologist was the right move for him to make.

“It’s another tool,” Fleury said. “It’s something that can help you perform, so why not give it a try? I think it was an opportune time to meet with him.”

Team Standing Behind Fleury

Not only does Shero believe in Fleury, but team captain Sidney Crosby has his goaltender’s back as well. Crosby told that there is no reason to believe that Fleury will not return to being a top-flight goaltender.

“It’s not like he has to re-define his game and prove to everyone he can play. He had a couple of bad games and unfortunately there is scrutiny that comes along with it, but I think he’s more than capable of coming back even stronger even through all that.”

Bylsma also believes Fleury will get his game back and explained to Corey Masisak of that he has no doubt that Fleury is his guy heading into this season.

“The question being asked of me is about the playoffs next year, because I know what is going to happen during the regular season. That is something Marc-Andre is addressing this summer, addressing right now in his game, and going into this season that is not just something we’re going to talk about and address in April. We’re going through that right now with Marc and that’s going to start — it has already started — and will continue into training camp and throughout the year.”

Who Will Fleury be in 2013-14?

With the regular season almost here, the rest is up to Fleury.

It will be up to Fleury to properly utilize the mental tools he garnered during the off-season not only in the regular season, but in the playoffs as well.

If Fleury can do that, there is a good chance he can give his team a shot to win their second Cup in the last five years.

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