April 25, 2011
After one has witnessed what the Blackhawks have done to Roberto Luongo's(notes) confidence, the notion that the Tampa Bay Lightning have somehow fractured the will of Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) seems a little flimsy. It's like comparing a sinus headache with a brain aneurism.
But that's the line St. Pete Times columnist Gary Shelton is sort of selling: That the Lightning, by virtue of their having chased Fleury in that shocking 8-2 victory in Game 5, have gotten into the head of the Pittsburgh Penguins netminder ahead of Monday's Game 6.
In Saturday's game, for instance, the game was only 25 minutes old when Fleury was plucked like a wilted flower. In a sport where there are broken teeth on the mental side of things, too, that is hardly an endorsement for a goaltender.
To be blunt, that wasn't the first evidence of vulnerability for Fleury, either. Twice, he has given up two-goal leads in this series. Twice, he has given up four goals in defeat. Since that brilliant opening game, Fleury has stopped only 80 of 92 shots, a buy-extra-bulbs-for-the-lamp-looking .869 save percentage. In the NHL's regular season, that would be good enough for 86th place in the save stats.
Shelton rhetorically asks if the Lightning have gotten to Fleury, answers his own question as "no," and then spends of the rest of the column establishing the actual answer as "maybe."
Let's dial it back to "no." Forget the anomaly that was Game 5; what in Games 3 and 4 occurred to make one believe Fleury's rattled? Two Marty St. Louis goals in Game 3, a power-play goal on which he slipped a check of Jordan Staal(notes) and another one on a fortunate bounce that led to a gaping net? Another St. Louis goal in Game 4 that was a partial breakaway? Sean Bergenheim's(notes) goal off a deflection and scramble in front?
Whether Game 5 caused some psychological damage, we'll find out on Monday night. But as the Post Gazette notes, Fleury is 3-0 with a .958 save percentage and a 1.33 GAA after getting pulled in the playoffs.
Who do you think has the better chance of being rattled in Game 6: The goalie with the Stanley Cup ring or the team playing in its first playoff series since "300" was in theaters?
So no, Fleury isn't rattled. The Penguins' penalty killing, on the other hand...