Monday Daily Puck: Flower Power

Monday Daily Puck: Flower Power

This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.

The last six months haven't been easy for Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. He surrendered more than his fair share of soft playoff goals and was benched in favor of backup Tomas Vokoun.

Over the summer, Fleury met with a sports psychologist, ostensibly to improve his mental toughness. Since then, The Flower has made a number of changes to his pre-game ritual. He no longer meets with the media the mornings of games. In practice, he doesn't joke around as much as he did before.

So far, the changes are working. Of course, not all of Pittsburgh's playoff failure can be heaved onto the back of its goalie. Head coach Dan Bylsma had no answer for opponent's stretch pass and his best defense was simply to keep the puck in the offensive zone as much as possible.

As a result, Penguins general manager Ray Shero brought in long-time NHL veteran Jacques Martin to help with the defense. Perhaps Martin's biggest splash, in addition to his mere presence behind the bench as an overqualified assistant, is the stiffened neutral zone defense. The Pens are employing a 1-3-1 defense, bringing back the left-wing lock with success.

What this means is that Fleury is no longer left to dry the way Grant Fuhr was with Edmonton. Teams aren't teeing off on the Penguin goalie.

It's still early in the season, and there are rightly a lot of Fleury naysayers, but so far the results have been outstanding. He's off to the best

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Toperzer
John has written for Rotowire.com since 2003 and serves as the beat writer for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s worked for the Pirates for 17 years, written for the Penguins’ Web site as the first game-day editor, and rooted for the Steelers dating back to the Immaculate Reception.
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