PITTSBURGH PENGUINS goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury knows the critics will always be there.
If his play in the Penguins' recent Eastern Conference playoff series is any indication, he doesn't seem to mind.
Fleury passed his confidence test with flying colors, winning his first postseason series in 4 years as Pittsburgh beat Columbus in six games.
He hopes the ride continues as the Penguins prepare for a second-round showdown with the Flyers or New York Rangers .
"It was definitely a great feeling," Fleury said after practice yesterday. "It's been a while."
It certainly has been for Fleury, the franchise's career wins leader who has struggled in the postseason since helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2009.
He helped Pittsburgh make it to the second round in 2010, but was in net for first-round flameouts in 2011 and 2012 then lost his job to journeyman Tomas Vokoun last spring.
Fleury regrouped during the offseason and his steady performance against the Blue Jackets helped the Penguins avoid a major upset.
Fleury carried a confident, relaxed demeanor into the series with the Blue Jackets. The approach worked against an upstart Columbus team that proved to be a tougher test than most expected.
"I was looking forward to getting back into it, playing some games and winning some games," Fleury said. "Even though we lost a couple, I stayed calm, just forgot about it quick and moved on."
Fleury has won 35 or more games the past five full regular seasons, but faltered in the playoffs. He carried a sub-.900 postseason save percentage since winning the Cup and his goals-against average ballooned above 3.50 the past two seasons.