Marc-Andre Fleury Making The Most of His Opportunity

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NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 27: Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins stops a shot by the New Jersey Devils during the third period of an NHL hockey game at Prudential Center on December 27, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. Penguins won 5-2. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

The Penguins goaltending situation has been the most talked about thing regarding the team all season, seeing as they have two capable number one goaltenders. Matt Murray’s play in 19 games this season has been superb and has him potentially being a dark horse candidate for the Calder Trophy. On the other hand, Marc-Andre Fleury had a bit of a rough start to the season as some of his numbers were high, but he’s been a lot better for the last month that he’s played.

After Matt Murray came back from his broken thumb injury, Marc-Andre Fleury really didn’t get that much work, as he would only play games in which the Penguins had back-to-backs. Murray was basically deemed the Penguins number one goaltender and he’s proven he has what it takes this season, as he’s 13-3-1 with a .928 save percentage and a 3.18 goals-against average.

Despite that, Marc-Andre Fleury had a very good December after his numbers were a bit high to start the season. He went 6-0-1 in December when the Penguins had an 11-1-2 record for the month and only allowed 11 goals in his six wins. Fleury was also named the NHL’s third star of the week after he went 3-0-0 during the week and had a .939 save percentage and a 2.13 goals-against average. His 37-save performance against the Montreal Canadiens really helped him get that honor.

Even though the Penguins are off this week with their bye week, it looks like Marc-Andre Fleury will have to carry the load for a bit longer. Matt Murray went down with an injury last week against the Hurricanes and is “week-to-week” according to head coach Mike Sullivan. Here’s a couple reasons as to why Marc-Andre Fleury is playing a lot better now than he was earlier in the season.

Marc-Andre Fleury Making The Most of His Opportunity

Seeing the puck better: During the start of the season, Fleury was allowing a lot of bad pucks in because he wasn’t seeing the puck well enough. But in December it has been much better for him. He was getting screened a lot by his own defenseman, which caused some issues for him but they’ve been getting out of his way as of late which has helped him make some more straightforward saves.

Fleury was especially good against Montreal this past Saturday as he was squaring up to face shooters and made some huge saves to keep the Penguins in the game. During the third period, while the Penguins were trailing by a goal, Montreal had a 2-on-1 up the ice and Fleury went coast-to-coast to make an outstanding save on Brendan Gallagher. That save ended up being a game saver as Pittsburgh would eventually tie the game with 54 seconds left in the period, and then win the game in overtime.

(the save is around the 2:30 mark).

Fleury also had this beauty of a save against the New Jersey Devils last week and it could potentially be one of the best saves of the season:

If he keeps seeing the puck like this, there’s no doubt that Fleury will help the Penguins win a lot of games in Murray’s absence from the lineup.

Adjusting to playing time: Fleury is usually used to playing the majority of the games, especially since he’s been the number one goaltender for Pittsburgh for over a decade. But this year he had to adjust a lot because of the emergence of Matt Murray. When looking at both  Murray and Fleury’s numbers, people can definitely see why Murray starts more games and why Fleury has had to adjust to playing less. According to Corsica.hockey, Murray’s high danger save percentage is 84.69% compared to 78.79% for Fleury. Murray’s middle danger save percentage is also better at 95.50% compared to 93.18% for Fleury. Howver, Fleury’s low danger save percentage of 98.35% is a bit better then Murray’s which is 97.04%.

Fleury’s play as of late could help his high danger save percentage get closer to Murray’s. Even though this is likely Fleury’s last season in a Penguins uniform, it’s great to see him playing well again after a rough start to the season. Having two number one goaltenders is never a bad thing to have, especially in the current landscape of the 2016-17 NHL season.

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