It’s only exhibition and doesn’t count toward the standings, but Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had another tough showing.
Fleury, who has struggled mightily in the last two post-seasons, allowed four goals on just 23 shots in Saturday’s 5-3 pre-season loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. And his play doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the most pleasing of reviews.
“He’s been OK, it’s been OK,” Penguins general manager Ray Shero said Saturday, as per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
“It’s a work in progress, I think. You see that with a number of our players.”
Fleury, 28, made five appearances during the 2013 playoffs, before giving way to Tomas Vokoun after allowing 14 goals in four starts against the New York Islanders in the opening round.
Despite his struggles, the Penguins went out of their way following the series loss to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference final to name Fleury their No. 1 goalie for the upcoming season.
A vote of confidence that is, the pressure on Fleury’s shoulders grew immensely on Saturday.
On Saturday, Vokoun had a blood clot in his pelvis dissolved and there has been no time frame for his return to the lineup.
In the meantime, Jeff Zatkoff, 26 years of age and with no NHL experience, will be given the chance to assume the No. 2 role while Vokoun remains out.
Just one day into training camp and Dan Bylsma is already pumping his goalies’ tires.
On Tuesday, the Pens head coach said his netminders — Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun — were the “best tandem in the league,” according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Bylsma’s comments come after a summer in which Pittsburgh’s goaltending came under heavy scrutiny.
Fleury, who will enter the 2013-14 season as the club’s No. 1, lost his starting gig to Vokoun during the playoffs after some shaky outings in the first round against the Islanders.
Vokoun performed well enough in relief, though he did allow six goals in 42 shots in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals against Boston, getting yanked in Game 2.
The Penguins have all taken a similar approach to discussing their goaltending situation throughout the summer and, apparently, into training camp.
The first part is saying they have faith in Fleury — “we believe in him,” captain Sidney Crosby told the Trib — and the second is confirming that, should Fleury falter, they’re comfortable having Vokoun between the pipes.
In spite of that, Bylsma made it clear the team won’t be employing a timeshare in goal this season.
The plan is for Fleury to get the majority of the starts, and the club is hopeful he can reclaim the form that saw him backstop Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup in 2009.
Marc-Andre Fleury is perhaps the most enigmatic goalie in the league.
That sounds crazy to say something like that about a player who’s not from a particular location in Europe, but if you can figure out how a guy who can play so well can look so bad in certain situations, the Pittsburgh Penguins may want to talk to you.
The Penguins didn’t figure goaltending would be an issue for them last season. After all, they had Fleury to start and Tomas Vokoun to back him up when he needed a break. It turned out he needed a break the most during the postseason as the New York Islanders found ways to continually beat him. Even GM Ray Shero wasn’t sure what would’ve happened had they not turned to Vokoun.
After the Pens were ousted by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals, coach Dan Bylsma made it clear to say Fleury is their No. 1 goalie for this season. For both Fleury’s sake and the team’s sake, they have to hope he can find consistency and at the very least, he’s doing what he can off the ice to do it.
He’s started seeing a sports psychologist. He’ll have a new goalie coach in Mike Bales to work with. As far as how it plays out on the ice, the Pens are hoping it translates into raises in his save percentage.
While his goals-against average has been OK, Fleury isn’t breaking any records with the percentage of shots he’s stopping as he hasn’t cracked .920 since the 2007-08 season. That points towards consistency and that’s exactly what the Penguins have desperately needed in goal in the playoffs.
If Fleury can get his head and his play turned in the right direction, the Penguins will be incredibly tough to handle. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Chris Kunitz provide plenty of offense as it is, but keeping opponents off the board is their bugaboo.
If Fleury can’t get right and Vokoun has to pick up the pieces in the regular season, can they go into another offseason wondering if he can get his act together? The Penguins having compliance buyouts to use might provide him with any motivation he needs to improve as soon as possible.