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Extra column: Au revoir to the Flower

(To readers: This was the early-edition column that went out to our print subscribers to hold space for the final version written after overtime. I’ll stress anew: This was written and filed BEFORE Game 3.)

BOSTON — Au revoir to the Flower.

The Penguins no longer trust Marc-Andre Fleury.

Really, there was no other reasonable way to interpret Dan Bylsma and the team sticking by Tomas Vokoun for Game 3 of this Eastern Conference final against the Bruins, facing their potential doom and desperate for something, anything to turn the tide, yet shunning their not-so-long-ago franchise goaltender.

It’s too bad, really.

No, not Bylsma’s decision. The coach made not only the right call but also the only call, as I saw it. There was no way he could abandon Vokoun after completely – and correctly – absolving his playoff mainstay Vokoun of all three goals given up before the hook in Game 2. And similarly, there was no way Bylsma could justify choosing Fleury after Fleury entered Game 2 and promptly conceded a long-range floater to Brad Marchand, then two more.

It’s unfortunate, maybe a little unfair that Fleury came in cold after three weeks on the folding chair. As Vokoun, to his credit, spoke in Fleury’s defense: “It was really tough on Marc coming in and playing after such a long time.”

But that’s the position, and these are the playoffs. And put bluntly, Fleury hasn’t done what’s required of his position in the playoffs since, what, the iconic save on Nicklas Lidstrom to win the Stanley Cup in 2009?

He’s had chance after chance, too, many more than that Marchand shot. He’s had the Canadiens, the Lightning, the Flyers and this year the Islanders. There were different supporting casts and other ups and downs, no doubt, but all those performances added up to some hideous numbers since the Cup – 14-16 record, 3.18 goals-against average, .880 save percentage – and, more important, all of them ended in defeat.

Now, it would appear, it’s just ended.

Bylsma, no doubt in consultation with his staff and Ray Shero and maybe even folks higher on the front-office food chain, made the decision on the off-day Tuesday – when the coach informed both goaltenders of his choice – that, essentially, they no longer believe Fleury can perform when it counts most.

If you can picture how that bridge gets patched up, you’re more creative than I am. I don’t see it.

Fleury has two years and $10 million left on his contract — $5 million annually — and it’s borderline unfathomable Shero would want that on his payroll if he no longer sees Fleury as No. 1. Remember, this is the summer where the Penguins need to sign, among others, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Pascal Dupuis, all with the NHL’s salary cap is set to shrink by $7 million.

There’s not a spare cent to invest in a player you don’t trust, much less one at the sport’s most vital position.

Vokoun has another year at $2 million. He’ll be 37, so he’ll need help, but he has a career’s history of carrying a heavy load. Maybe it’s time to sign someone else, or time to begin grooming the next guy.

What Fleury’s achieved in Pittsburgh can’t be erased. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NHL Draft after Craig Patrick boldly traded up to get him. He stepped right in as an 18-year-old, in part because Mario Lemieux showed faith at first sight. He owns the franchise marks for wins (249) and shutouts (26). And yeah, he did stop Lidstrom for what – with apologies to Frank “The Save” Pietrangelo – was truly the greatest stop in franchise history.

No one can take that away, any more than the lovable, childlike personality.

But it’s time to move on, for the Penguins and probably for Fleury, too. He’s 28. He has, just as he always has, the skill level to be the best in the world. He might just set aside these demons that have engulfed him every spring and put it together somewhere else and form a new bond.

This one’s lost its bloom.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.

Comments

  1. Excellent analysis. Sad but true. NO choice.

    His not being selected to start Game #3, a desperate situation, said it all.

    The expiration date has come and gone.

  2. siggy says:

    If he does manage to stay (At this point unless they just give him away who would give anything up for him?) then Gilles Meloche needs to go. He needs pushed, tough loveed, focused. He gets by on his athletic ability, but fundamentally he’s a mess.

  3. SJB says:

    And who do you supposed they get to replace him given there is anyone better out there? Should they dump him just for the sake of doing it? It’s not like franchise goalies are a dime a dozen. How about this: First see if you can find an adequate replacement and if that’s possible, THEN consider getting rid of him.

    I seriously can’t see Vokoun backstopping this team for an entire full regular season and if this thinking of cutting Fleury and making TV the starter going forward was taking place only a month ago, people would be flipping out.

    The Pens have enough issues concerning them and how to put together a functional playoff team starting from the coach down, let alone adding finding a new starting goalie to the mix, so they better make sure they get a good one and not someone else’s cast off simply because Fleury fell out of favor.

  4. SJB says:

    BTW: This shouldn’t be about money. Any franchise goalie (unless you can find a young one under the radar), is going to be worth or asking for around $5 million a season. Just ask the Flyers how easy it is to get one and get one cheap.

  5. hockeymonster says:

    I’d rather replace the coach and retool the defense than trade fleury! Vokouns playing well but the one constant that explains our playoff failures is a lack of fundamental team defense and dzone coverage. Replacing fleury and not addressing coaching is like putting a band aid on a open wound. I’d consider Alain Vigneault or lindy ruff before i’d consider trading fleury. 7M for the goalie position is reasonable. Bring in a coach that can teach and fix our dzone problems and I guarantee you that fleury goes back to being a contender for team Canada’s Olympic team.

  6. Jag7 says:

    Agree hockeymonster – they will never win a Cup with Bylsma. What is he going to do when all the young dmen get here – scratch them in the playoffs b/c they have no experience? He play ‘veterans who work hard’ (like he was in his middling career) over young guys with skill. It’s a joke. As for Flower, I’d actually try to package he and Letang for a goalie and a winger. Letang’s skill is undeniable, but so is his denseness. He’s just a dumb player, and not worth the $7 mil he’s gonna get somewhere.

  7. Kevin says:

    Yes very good example with the flyers. How much would Luongo command? Probably too much. Is it too soon to go with one of our youngsters to backup TV next year? We got 3.. Thiessen, Hartzell, and Zatkoff. If not, what does it take to get them NHL ready? how long?

  8. SeanAY says:

    Jonathan Quick made $1.7M the year he won the Conn Smythe and the Cup.

    Tim Thomas was making $6M the year the B’s won the Cup.

    Antti Niemi make $876K when Chicago won the Cup.

    Fleury was at $3.5M in the two years the Pens were in the Cup finals. Osgood was making half that ($1.7M).

    The point is this: just because Fleury is being paid franchise goalie money doesn’t mean he’s still a franchise goalie. And quite frankly, in a cap league, the name of the game is identifying the youngest, cheapest alternative that can get the job done before their cost balloons.

    Don’t worry about signing a guy to a franchise deal just because he’s a household name.

  9. DC says:

    Please read what is said!!! It has nothing to do with money as it has to do with CONFIDENCE!! He could be making $100 a game and they still wouldn’t play him!!!
    Why does everyone think that Fleury is the second coming and that he is not replaceable? The Bruins cut ties with Tim Thomas and look at where they are? It’s called moving on and this guy needs to do that for the team and for his future!

  10. Don’t Islanders have Tim Thomas’ rights?

    Trade to Brooklyn for Thomas’ rights and one of their quick wingers.

  11. Damon says:

    It may be Fleury’s time to go, but then the question is who comes in to work with Vokoun? Next year Vokoun (if he would then be the #1) would have to play a full 82 game season which is more wear and tear than this year. Is Zatkoff good enough? Hartzell? The only free agent goalies out there this offseason are Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Smith and Evgeni Nabokov. All three would cost a lot, but I think all three will sign with their teams. So…….who do you trade for that is young and affordable?

  12. I guess 2009 was a mirage.

    Pens weren’t even in a Playoff spot when Bylsma arrived.

  13. Kevin says:

    agree… maybe its one of our youngsters that will develop some kind of sustainable Varlamov/Moose-ish hotness.

  14. Kevin says:

    Umm.. speaking of facts. Tim Thomas “retired”/is on sabbatical. Quite possibly the best thing for Boston, they could move on without having to kick him out.

  15. Mary says:

    Absolutely agree, but all we’ll see is the trade him for a bag a pucks comments. As for the past playoffs, the Whole team stunk against Philly and the Lightening series, our best scorer was TK. Depending on who they get as a replacement, we may not even get to the playoffs. But let the bag of pucks comments begin….

  16. sportsportsport says:

    Hockeymonster hits the nail on the head. Fleury plays great when the team in front is doing its job. Are we forgetting his regular season play at all. For some reason the last few years the penguins defense has decided to ignore their own zone for large parts of the playoffs. If Rask was in net for us in game 2 he would have been lit up. No doubt about it. A wholesale change of the coaching staff is needed. Maybe keep Granato, I like his energy and emotion behind the bench. As ever its the goalie being torched for a problem that is much deeper set within the penguins. Note how even the ‘saviour’ vokoun struggled when the team went into brain fart mode! The writers say the Pens have lost confidence in Fleury, well maybe Fleury has lost confidence in the Penguins ability to defend in front of him

  17. Michael says:

    Agreed. This cant be about the salary cap. Trading/Buying out Fleury will only damage the core of the team and can cause goalies issues ( a la Philly) for a couple or maybe a few years and we just got out of the dark ages of Sebastian Caron. Vokoun isn’t young and can’t and might not play like this after this season (Brent Johnson 2010 vs. Brent Johnson 2011 ring a bell anyone.) Hartzell, Zatkoff, or Thiessen aren’t ready and might not turn out. And to do it for an extra $5 million and for what? Malkin is understandable and willing to take less, Letang can be if he starts playing smarter when it counts. Dupuis, Iginla, Cooke, Morrow, etc. all up to Shero. More than Fleury and the defense. The Goalie fails because of the people in front of him just like a quarterback and O-line. This has to be on the guys behind the players on the bench and they are sitting on a very hot seat.

  18. Kevin says:

    right? wish people would give Bylsma a bit more credit for 2009. Therrien had clearly lost his mind.

  19. SeanAY says:

    Fleury’s .916 save percentage (16th in NHL this year) and 2.39 GAA (15th) are not irreplaceable.

    Last year he was 26th and 12th, respectively in those categories, and the year before 31st and 22nd.

    I think you could find someone who can do a reasonable impersonation of that for less than $5M.

  20. Rob says:

    It’s true that Fleury both needs to and has to go. Fleury’s issue is completely mental. He was a great goalie during the season and a terrible one during the playoffs. Same thing last year. There’s no future guarantee that he will solve this problem, even if he works with the best sports psychologists there are. The cap is the big problem for him. The Pens can’t pay him that money to be a part-time goalie during the year and a backup in the playoffs. Plus, there are enough head cases on the team as it is. My wish is to see both Letang and Fleury packaged in a deal to Tampa Bay for Ben Bishop and the #3 draft pick. Jonathan Druin will plug in on Crosby’s line and give you 25-30 goals a year on a rookie contract. Kunitz goes back to Malkin’s line and Bishop is the good, cheap backup goalie. I’m speculating that this potentially clears a net of $8-$10 million in cap space to sign Dupuis among others, while making the team younger and better.

  21. Sarah says:

    I would be very careful of bringing in our youngsters too soon.
    That’s what we did with FLeury, with no reasonable coach at the big club.

  22. Sarah says:

    ANy ideas who?
    I agree with you FLeury needs a new start, but replacing his regular season numbers at a significant drop in his salary will not be easy.

    If they can’t do that, they MUST get a new coach.

  23. SeanAY says:

    I’m not an NHL talent evaluator. I don’t know what’s available on other team’s rosters, in their systems, in the Penguins’ own system, even.

    I think Ray Shero is more than qualified for that job, though.

  24. Sarah says:

    MAF plays great when the team does its job in front of him.

    Trouble is, when they don’t, as happens yearly in playoffs since Bylsma, he is too mentally fragile to hang in there.

    ANY goalie might be lit up with the way they played D in game 2. Or early in the NYI series.

    It was no accident they tightened D down significantly when TV came in. Benching their fave G shook them up. As it should.

    Seen that time and time again…..recall way back when we had a young untested G named Lalime.

    The team TOTALLY shut down around him and played suffocating D, to the tune where an otherwise journeyman won like 14 straight to challenge Ken Dryden’s rookie record.

    But Lalime was never that good and couldn’t get it done in playoffs when it counted.

    Do NOT discount that solid D elevates goalies, just as sloppy D brings them down.

  25. Damon says:

    I was taking a look, options to trade for:

    Halak from STL (they have Allen and Elliot, looking to trade)

    Hiller from ANA (they have Fasth, could trade them Fleury)

    Varlamov from COL (Partrick Roy might go for Fleury)

  26. CeehowUR says:

    I’d still take Fleury for a shootout. But neither Fleury nor TV is a good puckhandler.

  27. Sarah says:

    I give him lots of credit for 2009. He was almost the perfect storm, taking an extremely disciplined defensive team and turning loose their young legs.

    Just as I give him loads of blame for every early exit against less-able teams in the 4 years since.

    In 2009 – they went wild with DB’s Go North style…BUT…never lost their well-practiced defensive habits.

    Since then, they lost the latter good D habits. And Go North doesn’t win without them, as we have seen year in and year out.

  28. Sarah says:

    OK….
    Get any of those for a lot less than 5 mil?

    And do their reg season nbrs match or exceed MAF’s?

    Be careful with Halak and Hiller….VERY defenisve oriented schemes. They come to Bylsma’s system they may need therapy.

  29. Rob says:

    Totally agree with you Sports and Hockey Monster. Until the Pens employ a structured playoff mind set/game plan evaluating Fleury’s performance solely on his stats and the won loss record is ignoring the biggest elephant in the room. As we are seeing, play a team with a disciplined structure and good players versus a team with the best talent in the world with-out discipline and structure, or a coach who knows how to utilize it, and you lose in the playoffs. 3 years and this year pending, this lesson has to be learned.

  30. Sarah says:

    Speaking of how a D-scheme can make a G look good, see Elliott, Bryan.
    Like a 240+ pick.

    St Loo can make a journeyman look good.

    Elliott in PIT might just be a trainwreck.

  31. Dom says:

    Fleury’s save on Lidstrom was better in the sense that it had far more significance.

    I think Pietrangelo’s save was the better overall save.

  32. Mike A. says:

    Like. +1

    Petals are off the Flower in Pittsburgh…and (IMHO) everyplace else. He’s toast. Cut your losses and move on…

  33. Dom says:

    Pietrangelo’s save was the more difficult one is what I’m trying to say.

  34. Damon says:

    Halak stymied the Pens with Montreal (not really defensive oriented), and the following season had a GAA less than 2.00 with the Blues. That’s awesome no matter what system you play. They would be looking for someone to work with Vokoun, so he’d be my #1 choice….although I just checked and he will make $4.5 million next year.

  35. Damon says:

    I wouldn’t want to trade for Elliot – I agree with your assessment there. They are looking to trade Halak and not Elliot anyway.

  36. Mike A. says:

    But, any replacement does not have to “match or exceed” MAFs numbers. “Numbers” are just that…numbers. The new guy in town has to be somebody the organ-I-zation (from Burkle on down to Bortuzzo) feels confident and comfortable with when he’s faced with a 50-foot, unscreened wrist shot, 25 seconds after the Pens have scored a goal.

  37. Sarah says:

    Sorry do not agree that MTL was not defense oriented.At least not in that series where they adjusted to the Pens.

    They COMPLETELY collapsed around Halak and kept the (unwilling to go to the crease just like now) Pens on the perimeter.

    Then sat back and waited for mistakes at the blue line and Camilerri was off on an odd-man.

    Pens got 50+ shots from 50+ feet, with no one infront to screen/deflect/get rebounds and Halak ate it up, as would ANY goalie LOVE to play in those circumstances.

    MTL got 15 shots of which 10 were odd-mans thanks to turnovers, and Pens lose 2-1.

    If you think MTL was NOT playing a completely rope a dope defensive scheme against the Pens there, you watched a different series.

  38. RobS says:

    Seems there is another Rob posting, guess I need to add a letter or something :-)

  39. RobS says:

    And I agree with your comments too Sara, must have been writing same time as me :-)
    Who is that Rob imposter down there?

  40. Mike A. says:

    +1

  41. Scott says:

    I’m torn on what to do with Fleury. He’s guaranteed to get you at least 30 wins during every regular season, and there are at least 10 other teams in the NHL who would snap him up in an instant if he became available.

    That said, here’s what frustrates me: Detroit won the cup in ’08 with Chris Osgood. Now they have a different star goalie who’s just as good. Chicago won the cup in ’10 with Antti Niemi. Now they have a different star goalie who’s just as good. Boston won the cup in ’11 with Tim Thomas. Now they have a different star goalie who’s just as good.

    Elite goaltenders aren’t supposed to grow on trees, yet the best teams in the NHL keep finding new ones without much trouble. Why is that?

    Is their scouting superior to ours? Could it be that the goalie is not quite so important, as long as you have a rock solid defensive system in front of him? Could it be that the Pens are unnecessarily clinging to Fleury when they should be going out and finding their next star goalie via trade or from the minors?

    I’m a huge Fleury fan, but I’m starting to believe that last theory is true. Fleury’s best days here are done, and we shouldn’t keep him based on what he did four years ago. The Pens need to aggressively seek out another high-level backup. Someone in his early 20s who can grow into the team’s next star goalie.

    Trade or buy out Fleury – especially if it means freeing up the money to extend Malkin (and possibly Letang.)

  42. RobS says:

    Formerly Rob who is now RobS and does not post on possible trades is wondering why his comments are being Moderated now?

  43. Damon says:

    Maybe I am misremembering that one (probably wanted to forget it altogether), but I am just throwing out any option I can think of to replace Fleury – if that is going to be the case. Those are the three that would be feasible/decent that I found. Out of those three, my choice would be Halak – he’s better than Hillier, and Varlamov….OK after his rookie season. Theodore from FLA is getting up there. Bernier would cost too much (trade-wise).

  44. RobS says:

    Well said Sara + 2

  45. Jag7 says:

    Amen Sarah.

  46. Dom says:

    If we were to deal Fleury for draft pick(s), what do you all think we could obtain in return?

  47. Sarah says:

    Great post!

    JMO but no question Osgood and Niemi were NOt Elite but the defensive scheme and the team around them were.

    Problem is, the Pens are the furthest thing from a solid D scheme, therefore they NEED an Elite goaltender to bail them out. MAF is that in the reg season. We all forget about the 10 rabbits he pulls out his arse nightly in the reg season.

    When the Pens get to Their Game well enough that the opposition hardly has possession of the puck in the D-zone, it masks their weaknesses. This happened pretty much for the whole of March.

    Otherwise, the Pens have mediocre D at best, and unless they can siginificantly impose their possession/forechecking scheme on the opposition, they will give up lots of chances, of which MAF regularly bails them out. Until the playoffs, when he doesn’t, thanks IMO to a combination of Yips, pressure and the extra intensity the opposition brings, willing to skate through bricks and barbed wire for any loose puck near the net.

    This season Mgmt/coaching bet the farm that they could win with Vokoun, which meant they’d have to step up the D significantly.

    IMO they have not done that. Games 1 and 2 showed WAY too many opportunitues for BOS. Game 3 showed fewer, and a far better effort, but bottom line, not enough to get it done.

    Once and for all RS/Mario/Disco if he still has a job/ need to accept that playoff hockey is about suffocating sandpaper defense.

    The days of winning 7-6 ended with Gretzky and Mario (and both those teams had lights out goaltending, not Osgood or Niemi….).

    The Pens have not had that since 2009.

  48. hockeymonster says:

    Boston had rask in their back pocket when Thomas lost his mind…who do we have? Hartzell?

  49. hockeymonster says:

    Sarah, from now on you’re authorized to by my spokeswoman :)

  50. hockeymonster says:

    Exactamungo sarah! You’re saving me the trouble of typing a rebuttal :)

  51. hockeymonster says:

    Yuppers!

  52. Kevin says:

    +2

  53. Rob D says:

    Probably not a high first rounder. He could probably fetch a mid to low first round pick, but we would need someone decent off of their roster to avoid it looking like a straight salary dump. I think we could get a high impact player in the top 3, plus a decent, active roster player for both Fleury and Letang. Two of the top 3 picks are divisional teams, though, if there is a potential downside.

  54. RobS says:

    Could it be that the goalie is not quite so important, as long as you have a rock solid defensive system in front of him?

    I think it could be a combination of factors today, but for the last 3 years (maybe not the TB Series your first theory is correct. I do think there are better talented goalies than others, but with-out the defense 1st mentality in the playoffs you can only expect a goalie to steal a percentage games. Relying on a goalie to bail you out or make up for a poor defensive strategy for an entire series doesn’t work. All the evidence you need is the last 3+ years of our playoff results. I’m not saying Fleury hasn’t played poorly when you need him to stand on his head, I’m saying you can’t expect him to stand on his head and win you a series.

    But your points on how other teams have successfully replaced their franchise goalies is excellent. The common denominator for that success is defense 1st playoff hockey, at the very least it has to be a consideration in evaluating our utter failure in the playoffs under Bylsma, with arguably the best offensive talent in the league.

    If and when Bylsma is fired with the recognition that his approach to winning in the playoffs has failed and lack of an effective defensive scheme in the playoffs is the reason, then your next hire will be a big believer in defense wins playoffs. In that senario, if it is deemed that Fluery has anything salvageable left in his physical and mental tool box, that new coach starts the conversation with him saying I’m amazed at your regular season stats and not surprised at your supposed failures during the last 4 playoffs. I will make you one guarantee, if you think you want the job here in Pittsburgh and that is I will never put a team on the ice in front of you that doesn’t think defense 1st in the playoffs. If you think you would like to experience that once in your career, then let’s go win some hockey games.

    At least one scenario I think that could possibly salvage MAF career, maybe it’s just time to move on, but my guess is if he lands on a team that thinks defense is important especially during the playoffs, we’re going to see MAF succeed and play up to his true potential. Just one scenario…

  55. RobS says:

    Another +

  56. Sarah says:

    Dunno….I wonder if they just buy him out, does that add 5 mil to the cap?….

  57. Jandy says:

    Fleury should be given a chance for a start with a new team. Not dumped like a load of trash. He has done much for this team. But when it matters, for some reason, he is unable to. Part of it is, as already said, the poor defensive play in front of him. Even if DB were to turn the system (successfully I might add) into a more defensively sound one in front of the goalie, I still feel Flower’s time in the Burgh has passed. Being yanked and sitting out for so long has left a bad taste in his and everyone’s mouth. it won’t go away. He has lost his identity here. His confidence is once again shattered. It’s not healthy for him here. He should be given the chance to seek a fresh elsewhere. As much as I’ve always loved and supported him, I wouldn’t insult him by prolonging his stay here. It’s not cool. I don’t have the answers for a replacement goalie, that’s Shero’s job.

  58. Jandy says:

    I see some new names. if you’ll post your hometown, Bizrow will see that it gets added to the list of Dejan’s Lunatics’ Asylum :)

  59. Jandy says:

    There was a clause added to the new CBA that gives each team some special “buyout” thing…where they can release a player and his salary doesn’t count on the cap. I don’t know the details, but I’m sure there are several who do.

  60. Jandy says:

    Yes, they do, Groat.

  61. Arriba Wilver says:

    Don’t they have a couple of “free” buyouts for next year? Everybody was talking about it to dump Martin (before this season).

  62. Jandy says:

    AW, GMTA friend :)

  63. MadTurk says:

    A good D definitely helps any goalie, but MAF has sucked for the past serverl years in the palyoffs no matter what type of D we have played

  64. MadTurk says:

    Yup ttake anyting you can get in a trade, dumping him is just plain wrong on many levels

  65. Sarah says:

    Well….this may sound funny….but in my decades of goaltending vs guys and girls, I have made easily a dozen saves like Pieterangelo’s. NOT to minimize, but for hat save you really just reach sideways as far/fast as you can, and throw the glove out and hope. Anyone who thinks Frank “saw” that puck and actually reacted to it, Is dreaming. Give credit for athleticism and getting the glove into prime teritory, but Stastny buried that biscuit right in Frankie’s webbing (and THAT, my darlings, is a schweeeet feeling lol!), and The Save was born to live in History!

    But in comparison, Fleury’s was by far more difficult physically and positionally. He had further to go and tracked the puck well from a screened shot and rebound off his right pad thru traffic. He had a powerful push off the left skate and strength to gather himself and launch a full body lateral midair block on Lidstrom.

    Trust me, VERY hard to do. I’ve had a couple similar but they’re mostly flails, arms and legs flying. Fleury was very compact and took away the upper half beautifully.

    On the scale of difficulty – MAF by far.

    Just a note from the resident goalie, Yr Femme Sarah lol!

  66. MadTurk says:

    Isn’t it funny to look back on the season and see some of the comments then see how they have changed at the end of the season? Is that because we all know best at the time of how things are going but missing the forsight?

  67. Sarah says:

    Boys you make me blush…

  68. Kevin says:

    LA Kings are a good example of that I think. Yes, Jonathan Quick is fabulous and fantastic but the defensive scheme around him is very tight. Physical, hard nosed playoff hockey scheme. They only need to score two goals to win most of their games.

    Even in earlier rounds, I’ve felt like the penguins had to score 4 or more goals to get the win. They can and they did. I think their scheme depends highly on scoring goals. When you suddenly can’t score, finish, bury, for whatever reason, you’re going to lose. You can’t suddenly revert to a game you’ve never had.

  69. Kevin says:

    DK, thanks for posting this column by the way. Really enjoy your writing… eventhough the core concept of your column today is a bit iffy. But, I guess if getting away with penalties to create magic makes people great then yes, Jagr is great.. Marchand is great.

  70. Matt says:

    If you think Fleury caused problems with his play in the playoffs then just wait and see what Thomas would do with his personality. It may be time to go…but it sure as hell ain’t time for some arrogant d-bag like Thomas to come in no matter how good his numbers were in the past. Besides, his numbers are more the byproduct of the Bruins system and coaching rather than his ability. There’s a reason he wasn’t a starter until 32 and several reasons Boston shipped him off to the Islanders despite a Cup, 2 Vezina trophies and a Conn Smythe.

  71. Sarah says:

    Good stuff, RobS.
    I agree if you have airtight D you can succeed with solid-not-elite goaltending ( see Hawks w Niemi, Elliott w StLoo)….

    Pens are nearly the opposite, as we’ve discussed. Emphasis on O, with the notion that if you don’t play much on your side of the red line, the bad guys can’t score.

    Works great reg season.

    The moment the Pens play a great deal on their side of the red line, it all breaks down, and elite goaltending is required just to survive.

    I agree that in the unlikely scenario thet a) Bylsma is fired and B) MAF is kept, if they switch to a MUCH more d-oriented system, Fleury could be OK.

    I do not think they have personnel to do that next year.
    I think probably best for MAF to move on.

    Additonally, I think BYlsma stays, if only because guys with inside info like DK think he will.

    Sadly.

  72. Sarah says:

    Glad you mentioned LAK Kevin.
    When you watch Pens and the opps the give up, and then watch LAK, it’s night and day.
    Quick is simply not asked to stop the types of opps that Pens require of their Gs regularly.
    Wen Quick has to be great, it’s usually a GREAT play by the opposition, or an uncontrolled chance, ie a deflection, or a funny bounce or whatever.
    RARELy due to defensive breakdowns.

    Pens goalies deal with all the above PLUS regular D breakdowns, often to do with schematic mismatches that are on the coaches.

    I remember switching from a PHL debacle game last year and watching the LAK late game, and thought I was watching a different sport.

    No disrespect to Quick, but he is simply not asked to do what the Pens have asked of their Gs since 2009.

    Different game in Pgh.

  73. He’s only an “arrogant d-bag” if he’s on the other team!

    Re: Matt Cooke, whom I love!

  74. Sweet Sarah,

    I’m usually right on with your opinions.

    But last night, Pens could barely have exhibited better defensive habits!

    The last 1/3 of season the Penguins defense was impenetrable!

    Actually, defense has been worse since Sid returned. You’re not (gasp) saying . . . that . . . Sidney . . . is . . . part . . . of . . . the . . . prob . . (I can’t even say it!!!!)

  75. Kevin says:

    yep agree… and personally think penguins game is more entertaining… well, as long as they are scoring.

    I was really hoping for Penguins – Kings in the finals just so I could see that clash. If the penguins had been able to keep up their 4 goals per game pace.

    Obviously, it means nothing now but penguins came into Ottawa and rolled over what was a “hot” Anderson (~.950 save %). Not sure how they got so cold in 8 days that they couldn’t do the same to a less-hot Rask.

  76. Kevin says:

    Groat, the mentality definitely changed when Crosby came back. And I have no idea how or why. We went from gm1 shutout to 5 minutes after gm2 started playing fantastic hockey.. then everybody went flat. Like a light bulb turned on and everyone decided the isles would just lay down and concede the series.

  77. blazer says:

    Count me in as a Fleury supporter as I believe he still has it. Anyone still see that zero in the overtime losses column? I see the defense playing a lot differently during the playoffs and it is not working. When the defense collapses and keeps the shooters to the outside all is well. Guess it is a two part problem for me maybe….

  78. wally says:

    The Flower’s time here may well indeed be up, but I hope he takes the HC with him on the last train out….

  79. Sarah says:

    Ahh Groat you flatter!
    The Pens were far better last night, totally agree….

    I believe most of the later season good D was to do with Not having to play D ….since Their Game, puck possession and fore checking were working so well they rarely had to play on their side of the red line.

    Different story when they get stuck in their end,like they did for about the last. 12 mins of OT1 (and lost like TEN straight faceoffs!)
    Terrifying. Poor coverage. TG for TV.

    But YES great point about Sid….not the first time they have gone downhill after his return. Witness the last 3 weeks or so last season. Dramatic fall-off.

    Often happens when the team just relaxes and relies on their stars……

    I would not call it Sid’s fault exactly…..
    Having said that, Gmes 1 and 2 might be the t so worst I have ever seen Crosby play….

    Part of the problem, no….
    Part of the solution, NO. Not yet anyway!

  80. Arriba Wilver says:

    Game definitely changes when the big guys are out and return. Part of the reason that happens may be that the co-owner thinks the players know better than the coach. (Talk about blasphemy, Groat). ;-)

  81. Arriba Wilver says:

    My thoughts exactly, friend. :-)

  82. J Walter Weatherman says:

    Fleury is gone. Hate to see it happen, as he’s as likeable as anyone on the team and shows flashes of brilliance. Much like the HC, you just can’t ignore such ineptitude at the critical times. Unfortunately, Fleury’s trade value is at it’s lowest point.

    An issue that may be flying under the radar is Malkin. It seems like a foregone conclusion that Shero will offer him a bunch of money for many years and he’ll stay. Are we sure he wants to stay on this team? I know he’s expressed interest in playing with Crosby for a long time, but that was before the recent frustrations in the playoffs. Maybe he will want to be alpha dog on another team or just want a change of scenery. I’d much rather keep him than Letang, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

  83. Sarah says:

    TRIVIA QUESTION

    When was the last time the Pens lost THREE straight?

  84. BillyBaduka says:

    Spot on Sarah.

  85. Milo Hamilton says:

    Very early this morning.

  86. BillyBaduka says:

    I think Sid and Mario (Mr. Country club atmosphere – chased the beast coach out of town) do bear responsibility in this mess.

    Still think Sarah is right that Bylsma has to go.

  87. Sarah says:

    HAH!!! think back…..

  88. BillyBaduka says:

    Bingo

  89. Milo Hamilton says:

    The 1st 3 to the Flyers in last year’s debacle.

  90. BillyBaduka says:

    Thanks for the extra column DK.

  91. RobS says:

    Sara I agree, I was just semi responding to one way DK asked the question of how you repair the trust/faith in your #1 goalie. That is predicated on upper MGMT realizing Bylsma’s system or lack there of cannot win in the playoffs, and that his deserved success in 2009 gives no credit to the defensive fundamentals still fresh in the players mindset from the Therrien era. .

    I think the best analogy which I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it before is in baseball and having an ACE on your staff. Once in awhile he is going to pitch a no hitter, more times than not he is going to need the support of sound defense behind him. You have 5 pitchers versus one goal tender playing 85% of the regular season and hopefully 100% during the playoffs, but the point is your pitchers on a consistent basis require team defense to do what they do and be successful.

    Kevin I think your dream match-up was/is never going to materialize, all though the fat lady hasn’t sung (again no offense to fat lady’s), but playing a bought into defense 1st system isn’t like turning the lights on and off. Not in the middle of a playoff series, especially since you haven’t seen who adheres/adapts to that style on your roster.

    In general as mentioned on this topic or this morning’s blog I think the mind set takes the pressure off of the stars especially so. You don’t have to be overly talented to work hard, do the little things, and disrupt plays as opposed to feeling like your expected to create the next highlight reel every time you touch the puck.

    I think we have all been guilty of thinking that super offensive talent can overcome well executed defense. Based on a regular season why wouldn’t we, and based on the 09 Cup won by much of this core group of players why shouldn’t expect an ability to repeat, especially with all the “talent” acquired at the deadline.

    I don’t like this bet, but I will wager that if DB is kept on, and if the realization that the style of play isn’t changed at least 2 to 3 weeks prior to the playoffs, we are going to continue to see these playoff disasters no matter how much offensive fire power is added to the roster.

    Defense just isn’t played by defensemen its a team system and a mind set and with-out it (beating a dead horse now) you do not win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs!

  92. Sarah says:

    Ding!!! You win the washer and dryer!!!

  93. Drew71 says:

    So the question still remains.

    Next Pittsburgh team to win a game.

    Should we start a pool on the team? Or the month?

  94. Drew71 says:

    I’ll take it further.

    Thanks Dejan. Just for being you.

  95. RobS says:

    Totally agree Jandy, never met the guy but he is nothing but a self deprecating team player. Maybe he needed to have a bit of bigger ego and louder mouth, and called out his team mates at least behind closed doors if not publicly to draw some attention to the core problem in front him.

    Whatever happens I expect we will be hearing good things where ever he lands. Wouldn’t it be ironic if we ended up getting shutdown/out by a MAF back stopped team in the next few years? Talk about incentive :-)

  96. Drew71 says:

    So where did everybody go?

    NBA Finals parties?

  97. Drew71 says:

    Or a Bylsma BarBQ?

  98. Arriba Wilver says:

    The MLB draft.

  99. DJ says:

    Great post, Scott. Although I’m not a great evaluator of the ”next great one” in net, what about Eric Hartzell? Obviously needs some seasoning given he just graduated from Quinnipiac, but he is big and said to be very athletic (3-sport star in HS). Saw him at Frozen Four and I liked what I saw, but not awestruck by him. Could he be said to be just another year (or so) away?

    On Fleury, my fear, if I might draw an analogy, would be he would turn out to be the next Jerome Bettis, plucked for a pittance from a team where he had worn out his welcome and then a beast / star for another 10 years with another.

  100. Sarah says:

    Well said!

    I guess I do not think that MAF’s confidence or status in the room can be repaired as long as Bylsma is coach.

    Nor do I think the style will change significantly as long as Bylsma’s coach.

    Maybe it is as simple as Mario REALLY wishes it was still possible to win with an offensive style.
    Sigh…..

  101. DJ says:

    On Fleury, just wish some sports psychologist / hypnotist could provide him with a mnemonic device where, every time he mouthed a particular word, the switch would go on and his body would be as relaxed and his brain as focused as in his shoot-outs. He’d be unbeatable. At least he would have stopped the Marchand floater in Game 2.

  102. Karen22 says:

    MLB draft is happening and it’s totally under the rug with the Pens’ epic collapse. Pirates first pick: Austin Meadows (OF), HS player from Georgia…

    Back to hockey and a miraculous 4-game streak to get to the finals….

    Wake me when it’s over.

  103. Drew71 says:

    Austin Meadows??

    Wasn’t she in Mean Girls II?

  104. Drew71 says:

    Put a sweater on

  105. Lad9 says:

    Pirates other first rounder is a left handed hitting high school catcher named Reese McGuire.

  106. Timd says:

    How does the bridge get patched up? Maybe by firing the goalie coach. I’m not close enough to how much influence that particular coach has, but the comfort level between a Quebec-ois coach and the Sorel protege may be too close for criticism, just like the mindset of the entire team and their coach. By changing the goalie coach, you give one more chance for the goalie to rebound.

    Broadly speaking, I think that’s the overall environment for team/coach that Shero will likely try to adjust in the offseason, so that a terrible turnover/goal is accountable by benching or other means to correct such behavior, rather than ignoring it.

  107. theplanisworking says:

    Wasnt that Audrey Meadows? ;)

  108. Jandy says:

    +1

  109. Jandy says:

    That’s one of my fears, RobS!!

 
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