GoaltendingPlayoffs

Scouting the opposition: Marc-Andre Fleury

Finally, after 82 games and 187 days, the Rangers now know they will be facing in the first round of the playoffs. After a relatively strong start to the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins, suffering from a number of significant injuries, limped into the 8th and final playoff spot on Saturday. In preparation for the start of the series on Thursday, we will be running some preview posts so we can see what lies ahead for the Blueshirts in the opening round.

First up is an analysis of Marc-Andre Fleury, who will have the esteemed honor of playing behind an absolutely injury ravaged defense. Fleury had a nice renaissance of sorts this season, posting numbers far above his career averages (2.32 GAA/.920 sv% vs career averages of 2.59 and .911, respectively). He was far from the problem for the Penguins this year. I actually did a preview of Fleury way back in 2012, and the scouting report has definitely changed a bit. Quick refresher if it’s been a while; I’ll cover Stance, Crease Movement/Depth, Equipment, Puck-Handling Ability and Exploitable Weaknesses. Let’s get after it…

Stance:

Fleury has a very casual looking stance, especially when tracking the puck. However, he has a deceptively wide set up with his skates comfortably exceeding shoulder width. This creates a strong sense of balance, especially when his shoulders lay back with his chest forward. This allows for balanced movement and square positioning, without fear that a lateral save selection will result in falling forward or backward. Fleury carries his glove a little lower than most of his contemporaries, but accounts for it with quickness.

Crease Movement/Depth:

Even as he enters his 30’s, Fleury’s movement is still well above average. He is a very good skater and can move laterally with the best of them. Because of this mobility, Fleury will play at about mid-depth in the crease, but can sometimes be lured out and taken out of position with targeted passing plays. He has a tremendously wide butterfly and high-end flexibility, so scrambling and lateral saves are something of a forte for the Sorel, Quebec native.

Equipment:

Since back in juniors, Fleury has worn Lefebvre products. The Quebec based equipment designer designed for KOHO back in the day and is now responsible for the Reebok and CCM equipment lines. Currently, Fleury wears the Reebok Premier XLT line, which is the newest model in the Premier catalogue that debuted back in the mid-2000’s. Nothing too earth shattering going on equipment wise for the Flower.

www.thegoalieguild.com
www.thegoalieguild.com

Puck-Handling Ability:

This is one area that should definitely not be considered a Fleury strong suit. Sure, he is competent (most of the time) regrouping dump-in’s behind the net and short distribution, however he can get himself into trouble by taking too long and not seeing the simple passing lanes to move the puck out of danger.

He has been known to get a little hyped up handling the puck, and also likes to take shots at the open net on occasion. This may not be an avenue ripe for exploitation from this incarnation of the Rangers, based on their counter attacking, speed game as opposed to heavy puck pursuit, but keeping Fleury a little jittery back there is not a bad idea.

Exploitable Weaknesses:

Where else to start but between the ears? Fleury has a habit of melting down in big games/situations and has been a constant source of doubt since the Penguins last Stanley Cup run in 2009. Since then, they have had varying degrees of success, including a run to the Conference Finals in 2012-2013, when they were swept by the Bruins.

I think last year’s playoffs went a long way to removing the “playoff tire fire” reputation from Fleury’s game, but there are still serious questions about his ability to get up for big games. The Rangers need to be in his head, early and often. Send Chris Kreider, Rick Nash and Kevin Hayes to the net. Get in his face, make him uncomfortable and try to get pucks through traffic. Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle, especially need to constantly challenge his sight lines and force him into uncomfortable rebounds.

The other, lesser discussed area to be exploited in Fleury’s seeming desire to make that lateral save. This situation, I could see happening more frequently than some of the more possession-based strategies. If the Rangers are afforded odd man rushes, that look off to the wide man or the trailer could leave Fleury vulnerable on the short side. He is acutely aware of the other options and can be caught cheating when you can mask the shot well enough. Rick Nash and Kreider could take particular advantage of this.

Outside of the goaltending circus in Detroit, Fleury is among the least intimidating matchup the Rangers could draw (Halak and Hammond being the alternatives). Price, Holtby, Bishop and Lundqvist are the matchups nobody wants. Now, the Rangers need to take advantage of it.

"Scouting the opposition: Marc-Andre Fleury", 5 out of 5 based on 9 ratings.
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5 Comments

  1. I get the feeling Fleury isn’t going to be able to handle the added pressure put on by the Rangers with Letang, Ehrhoff, and Maata out. Rob Scuderi and Ben Lovejoy are top four there now because of the injuries. That’s a lot of pressure on the goalie.

  2. Good points. We need to make him think more and react less. We do that by getting in front of him and destroying the sight lines. Pitt can also ill-afford to lose a defenseman on a PK. We need to make them pay.

    Their forwards will play more defense than they have ever done before. This will provide Fleury with 5 defenseman on the ice, when the puck is in their zone. This should allow us to complicate their carry out of the zone.

    Cindy and Malkin are still #2 & #3 on dangerous offensive players in the league. We need to pump in 3 or 4 a night on Fleury. If he holds us to 2, it will be a terrifying final 5 minutes.

    1. If the Rangers aren’t scoring 3 to 4 a game in this series it means MAF is having the series of his life. About a quarter of the Pens roster for this series is AHL-caliber.

      Like you said Sal, with the way the Pens are going to have to collapse on their net to play D we may see multiple 5 minute stretches where the Pens hardly have the puck inside the Rangers’ zone.

  3. Hey Justin! Thanks for the excellent piece. This is the sort of piece that attracted me to this blog a few seasons ago. Even having played a bit in my younger daze and having been a fan for decades there is so much that I can learn and this blog has been increased my knowledge exponentially. Thank you and the rest of the writers for providing this type of content.

    One correction though…

    “Fleury has a very casual looking stance, especially when tracking the puck.”

    …I think you meant to write, “…especially when tracking the puck as the Rangers put it past him.”

    LOL…j/k. A bit of homer humor in return for the exceptional post.

  4. I believe that the key to this series is get between Fleury’s ears. If we do that early in the series, this guy ill implode.

    Let’s take game one out of the way, then two, go to Pitt with these guys scratching their heads as to what to do. This shod be a fun series!!!!!!!!!!

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