PITTSBURGH (AP) Marc-Andre Fleury tucked his hair behind his right ear and spent the next five minutes deflecting away praise much in the same way the Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender effortlessly turned aside 1,685 shots during a season unlike any of his 11-year career.
His club-record and NHL-high 10 shutouts? The product of coach Mike Johnston's more defensive-oriented system. The calmness he displayed so regularly even as the star-studded lineup in front of him muddled through maddening stretches of ineffective play?
That's just the byproduct of a decade-plus in the league. The sense of security that comes from a four-year contract extension? That's all on general manager Jim Rutherford.
''I just try to go out and do my job,'' Fleury said. ''I don't like to make things too complicated.''
That's all in the past for a player who has spent years toiling sometimes thanklessly in the shadows while superstar teammates Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin command the spotlight. Not this season.
Not with Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang sidelined at various times with injuries. Not with Crosby trying to create something resembling chemistry with constantly changing linemates.
Pittsburgh didn't clinch a ninth straight playoff berth until the final day of the regular season, a fitting 2-0 win over Buffalo in which Fleury staved off a miserable collapse by stopping 28 shots.
A question mark as recently as two springs ago - when he briefly lost his starting job to Tomas Vokoun in the playoffs - Fleury is now one of the few constants on a roster that has spent the past five months in a perpetual state of flux.
He's also Pittsburgh's biggest asset as it tries to upset the New York Rangers in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
''Every game he's played, he gave us a chance to win,'' forward David Perron said.
Fleury's 2.32 goals-against average marked a personal best and his .920 save percentage was just a tick off the .921 he posted while playing just 33 games during an injury-filled 2007-08 regular season.
Press Fleury on how he provided the steadying presence through a turbulent final months and he shrugs the shoulders that seem remarkably thin considering the burden he's carried.
The 30-year-old looks uncomfortable using the word ''I,'' preferring to pepper his answers with more inclusive pronouns.
''I think it's been a pretty good season,'' he said. ''At the end was little frustrating, a little tough. If you look at our entire season with the injuries and the 82 games, we did a good job.''
No Penguin did a better one than Fleury, who was selected the Most Valuable Player by his teammates for the way he dealt with adversity in front of him.
It's a peace of mind that's hard-earned. It also comes with the territory when you play a position that is so visible. While his sprawling save on Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom in the final second of Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals preserved Pittsburgh's third title.
It was supposed to mark the start of a dynasty. Six years later the Penguins are still in search of a bookend to that glorious run through May and June and Fleury has served as a popular topic for fan derision.
Do a Twitter search during one of his poor performances and you're sure to find the hashtag (hash)BlameFleury, which in a way is perhaps fitting considering the way he accepts blame every time a puck ends up behind him no matter how many mistakes happen in front of him.
''The players battle hard for him because he never through the course of the season at any time, on the power play, we give up a breakaway, never blamed anybody,'' Johnston said. ''He's always taking responsibility for himself.''
Fleury has spent so much time in the shadows it's easy to forget he was the first building block in the franchise's renaissance, taken with the first overall pick in the 2003 draft and tasked with learning on the job for a club that lacked any sort of identity.
By 2006 both Crosby and Malkin and their flashy brilliance arrived, leaving Fleury in a somewhat thankless position. If the Penguins win, it's because of their firepower. If they lose, it's because of the athletic if occasionally mercurial guy between the pipes.
Now all Fleury has to do is find a way to outplay New York's Henrik Lundqvist, who shut down the Penguins a year ago as the Rangers rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win their Eastern Conference semifinal series in seven games.
The Rangers are deep, confident and on a roll. For Pittsburgh to become the fifth team in the past decade to knock off the Presidents' Trophy winners Fleury will have to find a way to find a way.
He's better equipped to handle it now more than ever.
''I think with a lot of athletes, how you handle adversity, how you handle situations, how you handle challenges, that evolves over the course of your term as a player,'' Johnston said. ''That's a big strength of his now where maybe three years ago, four years ago it wasn't a big strength of his. He's got that locked down now.''