Dunlap: Give Me One More, Flower

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – That was amazing.

You see, what Marc-Andre Fleury did for the Penguins in a spot-start on Wednesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opener of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was nothing short of remarkable.

You know what happened by now — pressed into duty on short notice because No. 1 goaltender Matt Murray reaggravated (and make no mistake, that’s what he did) something in his lower body during warmups, Fleury admirably jumped in and turned aside 31 shots.

He was the story in Game 1, and nothing else was even close. Not Geno, not Bonino, not Sid or Kessel, Torts or Sully. Far and above the story was Fleury and how he adeptly went from a guy who thought he’d have a baseball cap on all night to someone a few short minutes later was leading the Penguins to a 3-1 win.

[graphiq id=”5UNZwGTaqdT” title=”Marc-Andre Fleury Profile” width=”600″ height=”1000″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/5UNZwGTaqdT” ]

What a night for the Flower. What a professional, to be ready like that.

Now comes the demanding part for Fleury — at least from me. I want an encore performance.

I want more.

I want to see it again.

Fleury will be the guy for the foreseeable future in these playoffs — at least for Game 2 on Friday against the Blue Jackets — and I know it’s a big ask, but I want to see it again before I’m sold on the fact he’s put most of his playoff demons behind him.

Is that a commonly held belief today as Pittsburgh is celebrating a Game 1 victory? Probably not. Most everyone is, rightly so, still rejoicing.

Is that a more than fair way of looking at it? I think so.

Here’s why: Fleury — albeit one of the nicest humans on the planet — has had his playoff existence and performance dissected and studied probably as much as anyone who has ever drawn a paycheck from a Pittsburgh team.

And, also, if he has a bad performance in Game 2, we will be right back to the questions about Fleury and his capabilities as a playoff performer.

All of it is fair. Every single bit of it.

Headed into last night, since the 2009-10 postseason, Fleury held a 22-27 record in playoff games. His goals against in the 2011-12 playoffs spiked to 4.63 and was 3.52 in postseason games a year later. In five of the seven postseasons since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, Fleury has a save percentage of less than .900.

Those are all the numbers. That isn’t opinion or any editorializing — those are simply the facts.

For me, Fleury went a heck of a long way toward silencing some critics with what he did in Game 1 against the Blue Jackets, turning in a masterful presentation when so much was stacked against him.

Good for him. No, great for him. He was prepared and professional and it showed.

Now — and again I know this might be selfish — I want to see it again.

I want to see it on Friday night.

I want to see Fleury have back-to-back good games in the playoffs before I’m ready to declare him as fully back to being a prime time playoff performer.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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