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Marc-Andre Fleury injury a reminder of his value

Often an over-looked part of the Pittsburgh Penguins success, the injury to Marc-Andre Fleury makes you stop and realize the Pens might have lost a goalie that had given up five goals in his last six games and was on a seven game winning streak. With a .923 save percentage since February 1, Fleury has been quietly having a solid season.

Justin K. Aller

Ever forget how important something is, until it isn’t working for you anymore? Maybe it’s your car when you get a flat tire, or your cable service when it inexplicably isn’t working or your washing machine when it breaks- there’s little things everywhere in life that we rely on so much, that make our lives happen that we take for granted.

For Pittsburgh Penguins fans, Marc-Andre Fleury may be such an item too, in a way..

Fleury was woozy after Tyler Kennedy unexpectedly crunched him last night late in the second period. Fleury would finish the final 49 seconds of the frame after getting checked by the trainer, but on his way off the ice he obviously said something to backup Tomas Vokoun as he made his way down the runway. It’d be the last we would see of Fleury that night.

Officially he’s still being diagnosed (some reports say he has a sore neck) and we may know a little more when the Penguins practice today. Or, if tomorrow they need to call up a goalie from the minors.

It’d be a shame if Fleury misses time, as he’s been a major driving force in making the Penguins one of the top teams in the league this season.

This lockout shortened season has been tough on goalies- many couldn’t get contracts in other leagues, with teams preferring to stick with goalies they knew would play all season and not jet back to the NHL if/when the lockout concluded. That left a lot of rust as pre-season routines were totally shattered. Then, when the lockout ended, there was about a week of practices- no exhibition games- before the regular season suddenly kicked into high-gear.

So throw out Fleury’s January as his pre-season schedule (2-2 record, 2.94 goals against average, .890 save percentage) and since then he’s been dynamite: 16-3-0, 2.14 GAA and a .923 save percentage. Since being pulled after 20 shaky minutes in Philadelphia, Fleury’s won seven games in a row and had allowed 0, 1, 1, 0, 1 and 2 goals in his last six games (including last night). That’s some tremendous play in net.

If Fleury is injured and will miss time, the Penguins should be OK- Vokoun has been a started in this league for many years and can handle the workload, and the depth in the AHL (Brad Thiessen and Jeff Zatkoff) is untested in the NHL but has been pretty capable in the minors. Pittsburgh can patch it up for a little while without their franchise goalie.

But just like those important but often under-appreciated modern devices that make modern life possible, this injury to Fleury is jarring with the idea that he’s relied on maybe more than even some of his detractors would care to admit.