Penguins Update: Time to Dial Back Fleury’s Starts? – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: Time to Dial Back Fleury’s Starts?

Through the first few months of the season Marc-Andre Fleury was a virtual brick wall in the Penguins’ net. Gone was the tentative, skittish goalie whose porous play last spring forced coach Dan Bylsma to turn the reins over to veteran Tomas Vokoun. In his place a new and improved No. 29 emerged—calm, cool, athletic as ever, and rock solid.

pp0416Lately, however, the “Flower” has shown signs of wilting. In his past eight games Fleury’s posted a 3.31 GAA and .892 save percentage. While the Pens are 6-2 during those contests the Sorel, Quebec native hasn’t looked nearly as sharp.

There are a number of contributing factors. The Penguins, who played uncommonly tight defense earlier in the campaign, appear to be reverting to their run-and-gun roots. A revolving-door lineup hasn’t helped.

Then again, given Fleury’s heavy workload (second among NHL goaltenders in games played), he may be a bit gassed. While it’s understandable for the Pens to ride their ace—especially with Vokoun sidelined with a blood clot—perhaps it’s time to dial back Fleury’s starts.

Backup Jeff Zatkoff, a question mark coming out of training camp, has proven himself reliable. He’d no doubt relish some extra action. Plus, the black and gold has piled up such a huge lead over its Metropolitan Division rivals, a slight hitch in their giddyup wouldn’t cost them much.

Better to have a fresh, focused Fleury come playoff time than a frayed, worn-out Flower.

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  1. 55 on Point's Gravatar 55 on Point
    January 9, 2014 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m thinking it would be wise, at this point, to get Zatkoff in net against a few better teams. While he has played well for the most part, he hasn’t played against any playoff contenders other than Detroit and Toronto and maybe the Wild. In nine outings he has four games with under .900 save percentages. That’s not playoff caliber goal tending no matter a potent offense. I wouldn’t be surprised if Shero isn’t quietly shopping back up goalies and I don’t think that’s a bad idea. I like Zatkoff but he’s still an unknown, untested quantity. He needs to be put under the microscope against teams like the Bruins and Caps, who we are going to deal with come the post season.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      January 10, 2014 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Excellent thoughts, 55 on Point. It probably was premature on my part to suggest that Zatkoff has established himself as a bona fide backup. That’s part of the reason I’d like to see him play a little more—not only to give Fleury some rest but to ensure that Zatkoff’s up to the task.

      As you pointed out, up ‘til now the Penguins’ brain trust have picked their spots with him. It’s perfectly understandable they would want to bring “Z” along slowly (and develop his confidence), but at some point in time we need to find out if he’s for real.

      Along those lines, your idea to start Zatkoff against stiffer competition makes a lot of sense. If he doesn’t pan out, Shero has plenty of time to make a move.

  2. Sandi's Gravatar Sandi
    January 9, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I am sure Z will start one of the games this weekend. Any reports on Vokoun’s health? They said January was his doctor visit.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      January 9, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Hey Sandi. According to a January 4 article in the P-G’s Penguins Notebook, Vokoun is still seeing a doctor regularly and taking blood thinners for his condition. Given the fact that he’s still on the meds, the feature stated that he’s unlikely to return this season.

  3. Pen's 4ever's Gravatar Pen's 4ever
    January 8, 2014 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    I agree MAF needs to sit at least once every three or four games the rest of the way, so he is ready to go when the playoffs are here


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