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2016 Playoff Preview: Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Henrik Lundqvist

2016 Playoff Preview: Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Henrik Lundqvist

A repeat of last years Eastern Conference quarter final, Henrik Lundqvist is set to battle with Marc-Andre Fleury once again.

The New York Rangers wrapped up last season’s encounter in five games, but under Mike Sullivan the Penguins have been resurgent through the second half of the regular season and head in to the series as slight favourites.

Both goaltenders posted Vezina worthy seasons for their respective clubs, making for one of the most intriguing duels of the first round of this years playoffs.

Marc-Andre Fleury

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Vastly improved under goaltending coach Mike Bales, Fleury has been one of the NHL’s most reliable netminders in each of the past three seasons.

In 58 games this term, the 31-year-old posted a .921 save percentage overall, improving to .933 at even strength 5v5, despite some early difficulties for the Penguins this year.

Once branded a liability in the post season, Fleury’s work with Bales has ensured the former first overall pick is now a much more contained and conservative goaltender, less prone to chasing the puck and positionally much stronger.

The end result is a goaltender who still posses great mobility and athleticism, but one who has also improved more fundamental aspects of his game, allowing him to wait out shooters from the more neutral position he now adopts.

Fleury can still sometimes get caught defaulting to a blocking butterfly save, locking his arms in to his sides and leaving the top corners exposed, but after strong showings in each of the past two post seasons, the question now is less whether Fleury can perform in the playoffs but whether he is fit to do so, having suffered two concussions this season.

The Quebec native has practiced on each of the past two days, and is expected to start at the time of writing.

Henrik Lundqvist

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The very embodiment of the ‘inside-out’ goaltender, veteran puck stopper Lundqvist remains one of the games most intriguing elite level goaltenders.

His .937 5v5 even strength save percentage was among the best in the NHL this season, and the slick Swede established himself as an early front runner for the Vezina with some stellar play during the opening weeks of the season.

Widely regarded as one of, if not the, best ‘money’ goaltender in the game, Lundqvist’s game is still characterized by his tendency to stay deep a lot of the time, playing from his goal line more than any other goaltender in the NHL today. The 34-year-old did make some adjustments to his game last season, including pushing out beyond the top of the blue paint earlier on breakaways and switching from VH (vertical-horizontal) post integration to an overlapping one, after giving up some squeaky goals when using the VH method previously.

The consequence of the change is that he can be slower moving across the crease on back door plays however, while his natural tendency to play deep can still lead to holes if Lundqvist is stretched by passes across the middle of the ice or in tight.

Likewise Lundqvist’s tendency to make glove saves by dropping his right pad to the ice and keeping the left vertical is both impressive in its beauty but also leaves him vulnerable to shots around his hip because of the way he looks to play them.

About The Author

Rob McGregor

A member of the InGoal Magazine family since 2014, Rob is also Media Manager for the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) in the UK and a former goaltender in Great Britain's third tier National League (NIHL).

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