The Pittsburgh Penguins have been the apparent center of the hockey universe over the last few weeks.
Their pre-deadline deals for Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray, and Jarome Iginla added fuel to the fire of their now 15-game win streak. Assuming they will be able to put to rest their current injury concerns, the Penguins will enter the playoffs as one of the favorites for the cup.
In order to hoist Lord Stanley this summer the on-ice key for the Penguins will be Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Penguins are loaded on the attack and have a formidable amount of defensive talent to boot, but a subpar series performance from Fleury could spell the end of the line.
Much of the blame for last season’s early exit from the playoffs fell onto the shoulders of Fleury. Losing the series to their hated rivals from Philadelphia only magnified the situation.
Fleury should be able to bounce back and put those unpleasant memories behind him.
Making sure the opposition has to work hard to beat him is where Fleury’s focus must be. Allowing the opposition to gain momentum through a soft goal can turn a game or even a series around.
Soft goals are going to be what most teams will need to try and keep up with the Penguins attack in a series.
Hockey fans have seen what Fleury is capable of in the playoffs before.
He was sensational in the Penguins' back-to-back trips to the Cup finals a few years ago. His play demoralized the Detroit Red Wings’ attack in the Penguins cup triumph.
When a goalie is stopping the best you can throw at him, it makes a player think more about how to score versus doing what comes naturally.
If the Penguins injury woes continue into the playoffs, the pressure on Fleury will be even greater. A weakened Pens lineup will give an opportunity for opposition to take more of the game at the Penguins. If the injury scenario arises, Fleury will have to be stout in the net to help the team move on.
With Fleury, it will come down to focus and confidence. When he is on his spots and his confidence is high, he is one of the best.
The Penguins are going to need the best Fleury has when the playoffs come around. He has proven capable before, and the Penguins are counting on him to do it again.