Back in June, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had to watch backup Tomas Vokoun steal his job in the playoffs and lead the team past the Ottawa Senators in the conference semifinals before they eventually fell to the Boston Bruins in four games in the conference finals. Six months later, those memories are fading fast as Fleury has put together a first half of the season that should make him the early front-runner for the Vezina Trophy. A win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday extended the Penguins’ winning streak to seven games, and for the moment extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division to 14 points.
Fleury leads the NHL with 20 wins, and his overall record of 20-8-1 is quite impressive. Backup Jeff Zatkoff hasn’t seen much action, yet Fleury has thrived while carrying the load for Pittsburgh. He came into Saturday’s action with a 2.00 goals-against average that was fifth in the league, and he has a .924 save percentage. For all of the great seasons Fleury has put together, he has never taken home the top goaltending award, but if things stay on their current track it would be hard to argue against him when the Vezina gets awarded. While he is 7-6-1 on the road, Fleury has been nearly impossible to beat at the Consol Energy Center, where he boasts a stellar 13-2-0 home mark with a 1.63 goals-against. Sure, he gets a ton of offensive support from Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, James Neal and others, but the Penguins have battled injuries all season and have still kept on winning. He made 27 saves to hold off the Flames on Saturday, and he has made at least 25 saves in each of his last six wins. The Penguins have one of the league’s most complete offensive units when healthy, but their success this season may rest more on Fleury’s shoulders than ever before.