Marc-Andre Fleury is an Olympic gold medalist.
That’s something you may have forgotten or overlooked, but the third-string guy on an Olympic championship team still wears gold around his neck. And Fleury was the No. 3 goalie for Canada in the 2010 Vancouver Games, although his presence on the roster was overshadowed by the Martin Brodeur vs. Roberto Luongo tangle for the crease.
But he wasn’t invited for the Canada Olympic orientation camp last summer, among its most prominent snubs. From the Globe & Mail at the time:
Fleury might not be the best goaltender on his own team, but he has won a Stanley Cup and would certainly be given a hard look if his first three months of the season are better than those of Luongo and Price. Fleury would be a high-risk, high-reward pick, given that he hasn’t had a playoff save percentage above .900 since 2009 but has never dipped below that point or had a goals-against average higher than 2.67 in the past six seasons. If he gets hot, his pedigree makes Fleury more likely to get a shot than [Mike] Smith or [Braden] Holtby.
Well, Smith is scoring own-goals with his butt and Holtby is losing playing time to a rookie. Fleury’s outplayed them both, and another rival in Chicago Blackhawks’ goalie Corey Crawford, with a 2.13 GAA and a .920 save percentage.
Those are some sterling stats. But they’re regular-season stats. And that’s the issue when it comes to Fleury: Since 2010, he's lost two playoff series and was pulled from another. His last two postseasons have been disastrous: a 4.63 GAA and a .834 save percentage against the Flyers, and a 3.52 GAA and a .883 save percentage vs. the Islanders and Boston.
He failed in crunch time. Not even his previous glory – the Stanley Cup ring, and the Olympic gold – could offset that, and Fleury was suddenly off the radar.
Sidney Crosby, his Pittsburgh Penguins teammate, told the Ottawa Sun he believes that’s unjust:
“I wasn't happy with four games I had against Boston, and I don't think they talk about that as much as they talk about a couple from a goalie. "That's just kind of the nature of the position, but I think he's been really solid, and really consistent for us this year, especially with the schedule and how often you have to play. That's not easy for a goalie, and he's been able to play right through that. He should definitely be in the conversation."
The tightening of the Penguins’ defense this season, thanks in part to the addition of assistant coach Jacques Martin, has helped Fluery’s numbers, but there’s no question he’s been one of the NHL’s top netminders this season. Especially when you consider the problems Pittsburgh has had on the blue line staying healthy.
Is that and his previous international experience enough to overcome his playoff struggles and have him earn the third goalie spot on the roster behind Carey Price and Roberto Luongo? Or have Mike Smith or Corey Crawford already solidified it?