Penguins Replace Fading Flower for Game 5 – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Replace Fading Flower for Game 5

Before I begin, I must confess that it pained me to write this piece. The last thing I want to do is be hard on a player—in this case Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury—when he’s down. Not only is Fleury one of the longest tenured Penguins—his career dates back to 2003-04—but he’s been such a huge part of the team’s success. Plus, he seems like such a kind and gentle soul.

pp0387You can be sure nobody felt worse about the black and gold’s Game 4 collapse than “Flower.” You could see it in his posture as he stood helplessly on the bench after allowing the back-breaking sixth goal on a failed poke check. No one wants to cost his team a playoff game.

Yet that’s precisely what happened in Uniondale on Tuesday night. If Fleury didn’t turn in the worst performance of his checkered playoff career (six goals allowed on 24 shots), it certainly was in the bottom five. And that’s saying something considering some of his more recent efforts.

It truly was painful to watch Fleury struggle as another third-period lead slipped away. Whatever mojo he established during the fabulous Cup run of 2009 seems to have vanished into thin air.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong. Despite his impressive regular-season numbers, a lack of confidence seems to be an issue. Facing fast, skilled teams like last year’s Flyers and the Islanders certainly hasn’t helped his psyche. At times it’s like the Flower’s tending goal in a shooting gallery.

But I think the root of Fleury’s problems stem from his style. His biggest flaw—an inability to control rebounds—seems to work in his favor during the regular season, when the pace is a little slower. The pucks popping off his pads actually serve to jump-start the Pens’ transition game—almost like a first pass.

However, during the postseason when the speed and intensity is ratcheted up several notches, his inability to control the puck becomes a liability. It’s part of the reason why the Pens seem so disorganized in their own zone—like so many crazed pinballs. Fleury isn’t able to control and/or slow the tempo of a game.

Game 4 was a classic example. The Penguins were trying to protect a 3-2 lead going into the second intermission. About 90 seconds before the buzzer the Islanders started to bring some heat. As they continued to apply pressure you could see the Pens begin to wilt.

Fleury had a golden opportunity to stop play and give his mates a breather when Travis Hamonic snapped a routine shot from the right point into his pads.

Let’s pause for a moment. Picture how Devils great Martin Brodeur might react in a similar situation. He’d glove the puck to get a whistle. Or smother the puck to get a whistle. Or shoot the puck into the players’ bench to get a whistle. Anything to let the air out of an opponent’s attack.

Fleury did none of the above. Instead, he allowed the puck to skip off his pads, where it was swept up in traffic. Kyle Okposo flung a blind backhander off the end boards that somehow trickled in. Another Fleury Folly—another blown lead.

Thank goodness the Penguins have a viable option in Tomas Vokoun. They desperately need a change of pace. While I’m not predicting the 36-year-old Czech will win the Conn Smythe Trophy, I think he’ll be a stabilizing presence.

As for No. 29? Once Fleury gets over the sting of being benched, I think a break can only do him good. Perhaps a few sessions with his old guru, Gilles Meloche, might help, too. You never know when the Pens will need him again.

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  1. Melody's Gravatar Melody
    May 9, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Relax people, maybe all the guy needs is a break, that is why we got Vokoun, right? So Flower could have an off night and get a chance to regroup? the whole team needs to show up and play old time Pens hockey, period. Pittsburgh is famous for loving Flower when he is good, and hanging him when he is bad. Instead of blaming let’s rally behind our team, if Pittsburgh can still pay to go see the Pirates they can rally behind this team who finished first in their division.

  2. May 9, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    You can’t blame Fleury for the losses. The goals scored on him in several cases were flukey. They bounced off of players and himself. The Islanders NEVER made a goal like Malkin, LeTang or Crosby. Goals are goals, I know, but the rest of the team is responsible for scoring more goals than the other team. They all share the responsibility. There isn’t another goalie I’d rather have on my team. We are lucky to have a great backup with Vokoun.

  3. May 9, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink


  4. I R A Darth Aggie's Gravatar I R A Darth Aggie
    May 9, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    It also doesn’t help that most of the skaters looked they were in the middle of a Chinese fire drill during those “soff” goals.

    Having watched many a minor league game in person, when the skaters are running around like that and the other team was buzzing, giving up a goal was almost inevitable. If for some reason they goal wasn’t scored, you were happy and thankful.

    Yes, Flower needs to sit. I feel bad for him. Hopefully, he can bounce back from it better than before. “You go to the box for two minutes by yourself. You feel shame. You get freed” http://youtu.be/_XbL7lG0Su8

  5. Lynn's Gravatar Lynn
    May 9, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Anybody remembering here that he did GREAT just a week ago AND he has a NEW BABY in the house? Remember what that was like? Does he need a break YES! Is he done for good NO!!!

  6. May 9, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Great stuff Rick. This brings up a good question I’ve been wondering. Why won’t the Penguins bring in a full time goaltending coach. It is supposedly one of the most important positions the team right?

    As far as the “Tenured” thing goes. Fleury has played more Penguins Playoff games than any other Penguins player currently on their roster.

    One more thing. The whole Fleury having a baby about 10 days ago cannot be helping out his situation. It has to affect his concentration. Which brings me to another idea I have. What if the Penguins had a person that made sure the players wouldn’t, you know, procreate, during a certain time of year so as not to have baby’s right before or during the playoffs. They could call is something like “planned Parenthood”.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      May 9, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      Hey Phil. I didn’t want to overlook your very insightful comment about the Pens not having a full-time goaltending coach.

      Fleury seems to benefit greatly whenever he spends time with the Pens unofficial instructor, Gilles Meloche. However, when left to his own devices he seems to drift back to doing what comes natural. When you think about it, the weaknesses in his game, i.e., poor rebound control, relying too much on his extraordinary reflexes instead of sound positioning, are pretty much the same as they were when he came into the league.

      I think a full-time instructor could help with that.

  7. SK's Gravatar SK
    May 9, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Looks like Stu beat me to the punch in both the article praise and Orpik comment. Well done though.

  8. May 9, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Fantastic piece. Hits the nail right on its proverbial head. I think Orpik is longer tenured as a Pen than Fleury though.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      May 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much for the compliment (and the heads up about Orpik).

      I really feel for Fleury right now. But the Pens HAVE to make a change. They desperately need to give the Islanders a different look.

      A little Pens-Islanders history. In 1975 the Pens took Games 1-3 with starter Billy Smith in the Isles net. So New York coach Al Arbour switches to backup Glenn “Chico” Resch and the bleeping Islanders won four straight.

      Maybe this time the goalie switch will work in our favor and we’ll finally take a series from these guys. LET’S GO PENS!

      • Anonymous's Gravatar Anonymous
        May 9, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps being a new father is taking away some of his concentration?

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          May 9, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

          That’s certainly a possibility. And the Pens have been far from rock-solid in front of Flower.

          But to win a Cup, your goaltender has to come up with the big saves, and at times, bail his team out. Whatever the reasons, Fleury hasn’t come close to doing that.


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