By Jason Huskins
Do the Pittsburgh Penguins have an issue in goal?
Depending on who you ask, you may get a few different answers in reply to that rather simple question. I truthfully do not feel that there is a need to push the panic button at this time in Pittsburgh. They have a young enough starter who had a Vezina quality year last season and they brought in an experienced back up goalie who could step in and play without the Penguins missing a beat. I truly believe that Marc-Andre Fleury is the right choice for this Penguins team and there would be a few who could actually step in between the pipes with the current play style of the group that Dan Bylsma has to work with. There is no easy “fix” if people are seeking a replacement to Fleury.
There is a certain intangible that “Flower” brings to the team that is not easily matched. Tomas Vokoun doesn’t have it and he has an impressive track record in the NHL. Fleury has a tremendous skill set and is physically impressive with his ability to scramble and come up with highlight reel saves but he seems to have issue tracking the puck once it gets below the goal line and struggles with making consistent decisions when he is out to play the puck. I will admit that there is a sense of confidence issues with Fleury since last season’s debacle against the Philadelphia Flyers.
He is battling every puck right now but he is still battling and that is the most important thing. Against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 9th you can realistically only place blame on Fleury for 1 out of the 4 goals. The Penguins pulled out the win in a shootout but it was a tale of two teams. The Penguins played a calm and simple defensive game for the first half of the game but simply broke down badly as the game went on.
There appears to be a underlying level of panic in the defensive zones by the Penguins. Whether it has been Marc-Andre Fleury or Tomas Vokoun, there has been a struggle for the team to lock things down in their own end and close games out early when they are up by a few goals. However, just like Fleury, the Penguins need to battle through it and simplify things.
This is the time for the team to rally around both of their goaltenders. There has been way too many instances of the team hanging them out to dry on a regular basis. A re-commitment by the players to taking care of business in the defensive end will go a long way to addressing the issues the Penguins are having and with rebuilding the confidence of their goaltenders.