Is it the End of the Road for Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh?
I concede that Philly was a very tough draw for the Penguins, but I just can’t help but think that goaltending was the difference. To be clear, Philidephia had less than stellar netminding as well, but Marc-Andre Fleury was just horrible. Its been bad goal after bad goal against, whether it be Max Talbot’s dribbler in game 2, or Gustaffson’s wrist shot today, and numerous others, the goals he’s given up in this series have been absolutely deflating for the Penguins.
For the third consecutive post-season, and the fourth consecutive playoff round the Penguins keeper finishes the playoffs with a less than .900 save percentage. At a time when a goalie should be at his best, he was at his worst, especially this year. Combine that with a goals against average of around 5.
Pittsburgh did not need Fleury to be good. Rather, they just needed him to be capable of supporting the offence they have, lead by two of the world’s best. He was out of position, scrambling awkwardly for the puck, and seemed “shaky” for much of the series. A goalie’s most important job is to make the big save when his team needs him most, Fleury quite simply did not do that for the Penguins in this series. Not often enough. Just look at 2009 when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, Fleury was good, not great, as his save percentage in those playoffs was a mere .906.
A goalie is your team’s most important penalty killer. The Flyers are scoring at an absurd rate on the powerplay. They were at nearly 50% for the series. A big cause of this has been Fleury’s inability to control his rebounds. How many goals have the Flyers scored merely by getting the puck to the net and scoring on a scramble?
So, does bowing out in the first round warrant Pittsburgh management to search for options this summer? At the very least the Penguins are going to need to get a better backup than Brent Johnson. It is obvious by the fact that Fleury continues to play despite his struggles, that the Penguins have absolutely no faith in their backup. Can we argue a reason other than goaltending for how Philadelphia handled Pittsburgh? Or was this an evenly-matched series between two offensively-minded powerhouses?
…and that is the last word.