What: Pittsburgh at Detroit
When: Saturday, December 14, 7:00pm (TV: NHLN-US; FSD)
They call him “Flower,” although for many old-timers (like yours truly), the REAL “Flower” will always be Guy LaFleur.
But Marc-Andre Fleury is today’s Flower, and for the Pittsburgh Penguins, he continues to blossom every winter.
Fleury, 29, is entrenched better than ever as the Pens’ starting goalie, and he’s playing as good as ever.
Pittsburgh is off to a 22-10-1 start, and if it’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin doing the damage offensively, Fleury is putting the hurt on the opponents between the pipes.
Fleury has a 2.01 GAA and a .924 save percentage. He has already registered three shutouts this season, making his career total a healthy 26.
I was on the ice shortly after the Penguins won the 2009 Stanley Cup at Joe Louis Arena, as Fleury led the Pens to two straight 2-1 victories after falling behind in the series, 3-2.
I asked Fleury, who was just 25 at the time, what the moment felt like, a year after the Red Wings beat Pittsburgh for the Cup.
Fleury gazed upon the celebration going on before us, with champagne being sprayed as the Cup switched hands from Penguin to Penguin.
“Amazing,” he finally stammered.
I asked him about the difference in feelings from a year prior.
“The lowest to the highest,” he said, still in shocked disbelief.
Fleury isn’t normally mentioned when the talk is of the NHL’s elite goalies, and perhaps part of that is because the Penguins annually put high-octane, talented teams on the ice. It’s a franchise that most folks feel doesn’t necessarily need a Hall of Fame goalie to support it.
The lack of respect that Fleury gets was highlighted last week, when some of the San Jose Sharks had some sharp criticism of Fleury, despite losing to Pittsburgh, 5-1.
But Fleury, nonetheless, has been one of the NHL’s most consistent netminders over the past six years.
Tonight, Fleury makes what had been a rare return to the place of his greatest triumph. Now that the Red Wings have moved to the Eastern Conference, Fleury will get more chances to gaze around JLA and recall that June night of 2009.