The Pittsburgh Penguins were projected to have a long run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. At the least, the Penguins were supposed to breeze by the Columbus Blue Jackets, who had only been to the Stanley Cup playoffs one other time and got swept. But as Game 5 nears on April 26 and Pittsburgh and Columbus are inexplicably tied at 2-2, all eyes are on Marc-Andre Fleury to right the ship in at least one playoff series.
No lead has been safe in this series, which has hardly been a showcase for Fleury or Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Yet Fleury helped bring about the biggest collapse of the series in Game 4 on April 23. The Penguins had a 3-0 lead and 2-1 series lead, looking all set to cruise to a five-game first round win as expected -- until Fleury misplayed a puck behind the net in the final seconds of regulation.
The good Fleury kept the Penguins up by 3-2 before that play, as he finished with 42 saves. But the bad Fleury made that gaffe when it really counted, leading to Brandon Dubinsky tying the score and sending Game 4 to overtime. When the Blue Jackets got new life, they didn't cough it up, as Nick Foligno launched a long shot that Fleury was clueless on.
This is the worst nightmare for the Penguins in seemingly every stint in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Fleury is the symbol of Pittsburgh's postseason luck in the Sidney Crosby era, as he and the team flew high in their first three playoffs together. But ever since winning the 2009 Stanley Cup, Fleury and the team have flamed out of every successive postseason in spectacular fashion.
Being knocked out by a Blue Jackets team that previously never won a playoff game -- and was already on life support in this series -- would be the worst collapse to date. It may finally be the one that makes Pittsburgh lose faith and patience in Fleury, despite his eight years of success. Yet in every postseason, he has been the ultimate hit or miss goaltender.
The accompanying list details the highs and lows of Fleury's Stanley Cup playoff history, and that of the Penguins in general since 2007. Will this sudden dogfight with the Blue Jackets become a high point after all, or become the biggest letdown of them all?