Marc-Andre Fleury: Struggling and Down, But Not Out

Phil DillonContributor IOctober 18, 2010

Marc-Andre Fleury has had a rough start to the 2010-2011 Season
Marc-Andre Fleury has had a rough start to the 2010-2011 SeasonBruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins' season is six games old, and there is no doubt Brent Johnson is playing better in goal than the highly-touted Marc-Andre Fleury

Johnson has won all three of his starts, giving up fewer than two goals per game.  Fleury, the former NHL No. 1 overall draft pick, has struggled mightily in his three starts this season, losing all three games and posting a GAA well above three.

With that said, Fleury still has to be the No. 1 goalie in Pittsburgh.  Johnson is playing great right now, but he is a 33-year-old backup.  He started for the St. Louis Blues earlier in the decade, but he’s not a starter now. 

That’s not a bad thing.  He’s a great backup goalie.  It’s his niche.  He’s been in the league long enough where if he was worthy of still being a starter, someone would have given him the big contract and made him the starter.

There is no doubt Fleury is slumping right now.  No one goes through an entire season, let alone an entire career without going through some slumps.  He will bounce back.  He always does. 

During the Stanley Cup run against the Red Wings, he played awful and got pulled in Game 5 at Detroit. He responded by facing elimination at home for the second year in a row against the very same team that beat him the year before, and he posted consecutive 2-1 wins in Games 6 and 7, making huge clutch saves in the process.

Everyone loves the backup quarterback and everyone loves the backup goaltender.  They are always the best positions to have.  There is no pressure on the backup.  If the backup comes in and plays well, he’s the hero.  If he comes in and struggles, it doesn’t matter because the starter will play the next day.

Be careful what you wish for, Fleury bashers.  If you run him out of town, all the Pens will have left is a 33-year-old backup and more unproven goaltending coming up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  Take Fleury for what he is, a very athletic and talented goaltender that knows what it takes to take a team to a Stanley Cup Championship. 

Fleury will never lead the league in save percentage or goals against average, but I will take wins over leading those stats any day of the week.  He’s been in two of the past three Cup Finals, winning the Cup once and coming two wins away the other time.  It’s hard to win the Cup.  Just ask Evgeni Nabokov, Miikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo.