Marc-Andre Fleury frustrated, embarrassed by Blackhawks’ awful October

The veteran goalie, 0-5-0 in his first five starts with his new team, hasn’t experienced a stretch like this since the beginning of his career.

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Marc-Andre Fleury has lost his first five starts with the Blackhawks.

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When goalie Marc-Andre Fleury arrived for training camp, the first thing his new Blackhawks teammates noticed was his positivity.

But after a brutal month of awful news, Fleury’s positivity is being tested. One sentence from his news conference Saturday, after the Hawks’ 1-0 loss to the Blues extended their season-opening winless streak to nine games, spoke volumes.

“It’s been tough to keep smiling,” Fleury said.

Fleury’s beaming smile made him a fan favorite during his glory days with the Penguins, then an immediate face of the upstart Golden Knights franchise.

So it’s a dire sign if Fleury, of all people, can’t put on a happy face.

“[This is] very frustrating, embarrassing,” Fleury said. “We had some hype with our team, with the new acquisitions this summer and younger guys having a little more experience this season. We all expected more out of our team. And it’s been tough . . . [to] keep staying positive through it.”

For a fleeting 40 minutes against St. Louis, Fleury, 36, was at least enjoying hockey again.

He made some saves at crucial moments, helping mask the Hawks’ customary defensive breakdowns, and even bailed himself out of a few puck-handling mistakes. He didn’t exactly look in control — there was plenty of flailing around the crease — but he did look effective.

“Honestly, it’s the most fun I had — those first two periods — in a long time,” he said. “Just making some saves and having a 0-0 game, still having a chance to win till the end.”

Torey Krug’s goal in the third period and the Hawks getting blanked for the first time since April 3 rendered Fleury’s 36 saves useless, however, and his discouragement was evident afterward. Fleury wasn’t smiling and looked genuinely pained when reflecting on his first month with the Hawks.

Coach Jeremy Colliton has noticed how emotionally taxing this stretch has been for Fleury.

“He’s a really good pro,” Colliton said. “[He has] a ton of pride and puts a lot of pressure on himself to play at a high level. He’s done a lot of winning, so he wants to win. Like everyone else, he’s frustrated, wants more, feels we’re capable of more.”

Through his first five starts, Fleury is 0-5-0 with an .872 save percentage, which increased from .839 on Saturday.

And in terms of goals saved above average, a holistic stat that measures goalie performance vs. expected values, Fleury ranks 53rd out of 54 eligible goalies at minus-6.16 goals saved. Kevin Lankinen sits 52nd at minus-4.59. Only the Coyotes’ Carter Hutton, with his minus-10.0 mark entering Sunday, prevents the Hawks’ duo from single-handedly occupying the league basement.

Fleury needed to think all the way back to his first two seasons to recall another stretch as difficult as this. The 2003-04 Penguins lost 18 in a row, and the 2005-06 Pens lost 17 of 18 during one stretch. Fleury remembered a veteran player urging those teams to keep forging ahead.

Now, Fleury is trying to pass on similar advice to the Hawks.

“Every time you go through such a tough time, the confidence gets a little lower, guys take mistakes a little harder, guys want to do a little more, myself included,” he said. “Sometimes we get a couple of goals, then maybe it’s a bad bounce or something, and we get down a bit.

“We have to find ways to stay upbeat and keep pushing for 60 minutes and still believe we can come back and win.”

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