By: Casey Shea

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and to give thanks for all the good things in your life.

For me, it may sound cliché, but my family and friends have played a major role in shaping me into the person I am today. Hockey is my passion and without their support, I wouldn’t have this forum to discuss it with you all.

My wife and I will be celebrating our one-year anniversary soon and two other close friends are also on the road to marriage.

With all this going on, I admittedly have a lot to be thankful for, including the Penguins.

I am thankful that the Penguins have woken up from their early season funk and have started playing like the team that has stricken fear into the competition for the last few years.

With a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators Friday afternoon, the Penguins are now 7-0-1 in their last eight games and have won five in a row.

Sidney Crosby is on fire and is riding an 11-game point streak. During the streak, Crosby has amassed 22 points ( nine goals, 13 assists).

I’m also thankful that the power play has started to produce.

The Penguins have scored four power play goals in their last three games, with two coming against the Florida Panthers on Monday. Pittsburgh’s power play also connected twice in Friday’s matinee with the Senators.

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(Photo Credit: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

I’m thankful that all the Marc-Andre Fleury haters are apparently suffering from foot-in-mouth syndrome.

The Flower is in full bloom since being yanked seven minutes into the game against the Phoenix Coyotes on Nov. 6.

In his last eight starts, Fleury has allowed two or fewer goals six times, including a 1-0 shutout win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday.

In his first eight starts of the season, Fleury allowed at least three or more goals seven times. The only time he surrendered less was in the Phoenix game, when he allowed two goals on five shots.

The sad part is that he’s shown time and time again that he’s one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, yet the naysayers come out in full force when he goes through a rough patch.

To see him battle through the rough times and come out smelling like a rose is a testament to his work ethic and his abilities.

He’s human. He’s going to let in a soft goal every once in a while. It’s going to happen, deal with it. Do you think Patrick Roy was brilliant every time he suited up? Ask him how he felt during the regular season in 1992-93 as the Canadiens were gearing up to win the Stanley Cup.

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In the regular season that year, Roy was 31-25-5 with a 3.20 GAA and a .894 save percentage. Yet, when the playoffs started he stepped up his game going 16-4 with a 2.13 GAA and .929 save percentage.

By no means am I saying Fleury is the next Roy, because I’m not one to try and compare players of different time periods. However, Fleury is a big game goaltender, as was Roy. When the game is on the line, I have total confidence in Flower, as do the Penguins.

(Side Note: While searching for the above image of Roy, I stumbled across this gem. Are hockey fans great or what?)

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(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Furthermore, hockey is arguably the ultimate team game. Sure, Fleury’s job is to stop pucks, but what about the other 18 guys on the bench? Their job is to score and help out their goaltender. When one aspect fails, the team fails.

Anyway, with the amount of talent the Penguins have at the NHL level and coming up in the system, they are poised to be Stanley Cup contenders for years to come.

That’s something we can all be thankful for.

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