First, let me give you a musical interlude. On the Pink Floyd magnum opus “Pink Floyd: The Wall,” the lead character in the story is put on trial by his subconscious for his imagined sins. His sentence, given to him by a judge that is basically a giant arse, is to be “exposed before his peers.”
With that said, the playoffs tend to either enhance the best features of a team, expose a team’s weakness, or sometimes both. This opening round series featuring the “mighty” Pittsburgh Penguins and the supposedly out-matched New York Islanders is no different.
Everyone knows that the Penguins have the big guns, and the Isles hadn’t played in a post season game since 2007. I’m not going to belabor that point. If you want a series preview, one has been made available to you via this website. And presently the series is tied. It’s not the blowout that most were predicting. In fact, games 2 and 3 were decided by 1 goal, and we’ve even had OT hockey.
That doesn’t sound like a powerhouse versus a playoff rookie, does it? The Penguins only hold a marginal lead in goals scored, outscoring the Isles in the series 17-14, largely due to the opening game blowout. So, what happened?
Here’s where the exposing happens. As it turns out, both Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins defense are suspect, and proving to be prone to playoff failure.
The Penguins just announced that backup Tomas Vokoun will start game 5 due to Fleury’s struggles in this series.
Let’s flash back to the 2012 playoffs. The Penguins were without Sid Crosby, and faced their arch-rival Philadelphia Flyers. All hell broke loose. Both teams suffered terrible goaltending, but Fleury has always been sold as better than that. Most called it an aberration, and blamed it on sub-par Pens team defense. Since then, this writer has not been sold on the idea that it was only the Pens defense.
Now, let’s roll the calendar back to the present. Fleury has played 3 unimpressive games to earn a goals against average of 3.40. That doesn’t look like the stats of a goaltender that can lead a team to a Stanley Cup. That more looks like the GAA of a goalie that is playing on a team that is fighting for the top draft pick. So what is going on with Fleury THIS year? Guess what, Pittsburgh, Marc-Andre Fleury could blow this series for you. Again.
It’s no secret that the Penguins are built to score. In the early 90s, the Penguins won 2 Stanley Cups because their idea of team defense was to score more goals than the other guy. But, that was a much different era. This time around, instead of Lemieux and Jagr, they have Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Much of their defensive core has been turned over since Crosby led the Pens to their last Cup. They simply cannot play the same kind of defense to cover up Fleury’s weaknesses anymore. The proof is in the results. Even with Brooks Orpik back in the lineup, their team defense is simply not scary.
Back to Fleury – At least two of those goals in game 4 were TOTALLY stoppable. They were scored because Fleury failed at the basics. How many goals were scored on Fleury in the last 3 games that were like that? I can think of at least 2 others and I’m not really trying that hard. How many goals in the 2012 series against the Flyers were like that? 6? 7?
The Penguins may get past the Isles. However, the evidence before the court of the Stanley Cup playoffs has exposed Fleury for what he is – an average goaltender that is the glaring weak spot on a team that could go home very early. Even though these NHL darlings have the face of the league and all, they are being exposed as a pretender, instead of being celebrated. Maybe, instead of sidewinding the Jarome Iginla trade, Pens General Manager Ray Shero should have traded for a goaltender. Wasn’t Roberto Luongo available? Oh, right, Fleury’s contract sucks, too.
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