Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fleury Easily Gets Nod as Team MVP

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fleury Easily Gets Nod as Team MVP

Article excerpt

Penguins star Evgeni Malkin presented another strong case Thursday night that he's the NHL's most valuable player. He scored two goals in the 5-1 win against the Nashville Predators, giving him 45 for the season and a league-high 95 points. Unquestionably, he's playing the best hockey in the world.

Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury presented another strong case that he's the team's MVP. He played brilliantly against the Predators, stopping 29 of 30 shots for his league-best 40th win of the season. He's on the verge of bumping two-time Stanley Cup winner Tom Barrasso off the top line in just about every important goaltending category in the franchise's record book.

Is it really crazy to think Malkin is MVP of the league and Fleury is MVP of the Penguins?

I don't think so.

I know this:

Fleury is the one player who has to stay healthy and nearly unbeatable for the Penguins to win the Cup.

"His play in net is a real reason why we have 46 wins right now and he has 40 wins," coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's been outstanding. It's no mistake that he's gotten to 40 wins before anybody else. There's a lot more to his goaltending than us having a good team."

Don't misunderstand. It's pretty sweet playing with Malkin; with James Neal, a 35-goal scorer who had four assists against the Predators; with Kris Letang, the team's top defenseman; with the great Sidney Crosby; with a fabulous supporting cast. Fleury is the first to say so. "I'm very lucky to be here in Pittsburgh with all of these great players. I have a great seat to watch them. Every night, they come up with something new. Big goals. Nice plays."

But Bylsma is right. Fleury doesn't get nearly the credit league- wide that he deserves for the Penguins' success. His statistics -- other than the 40 wins -- won't blow you away. It was the same with Barrasso, who played with Mario Lemieux and so many other Hall of Famers. Even many knowledgeable hockey people think it's easy to be the goaltender on that kind of hockey club. You just have to show up, right?

Wrong.

Fleury has been strong all season, frequently carrying the Penguins, especially when Crosby and Letang missed so much time because of concussion-like symptoms. …

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