Kovacevic: Fleury hot, but time to cool it
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Dan Bylsma won't name the Penguins' goaltender for Wednesday's game until sometime before the faceoff with the Flyers, but here's betting it'll be Marc-Andre Fleury.
Nothing wrong with that, of course. Fleury's been fantastic of late. In winning the past three games over the Senators, Jets and Sabres, he's stopped 82 of 88 shots and soared into the NHL lead with eight wins.
Let's put it another way: The other night in Winnipeg, shortly after Fleury lost a shutout in the waning minutes on Andrew Ladd's backhand rebound into a half-empty net, Fleury shook his head as he told me, “I should have had that.”
There's a temptation to run someone sizzling like that out there night after night.
But it had better be resisted.
Remember all that talk during the brief training camp about how, now that the Penguins had a bona fide backup in Tomas Vokoun, and now that they had to cope with a condensed 48-game schedule, there would be a different dynamic?
Remember Bylsma projecting Fleury and Vokoun would split at a ratio of “60/40 or 55/45?”
Well, while everyone's been enjoying the team's bounce-back from that awful weekend against the Devils, maybe it's gone unnoticed that Fleury has started six of the past seven games.
And that, overall, Fleury has made 11 starts to Vokoun's five, a ratio that's roughly 70/30.
If anyone thinks that's a good idea, then there's some serious short-term memory involved.
Need I remind …
• Fleury played a career-high 67 games last season and won a career-best 42. Some lauded him as the Penguins' MVP even though eventual league MVP Evgeni Malkin was on the roster.
• Fleury began to fade in his final five regular-season games, smoked for 17 goals, but the coaching staff continued to start him because all trust had been lost in Brent Johnson.
• Fleury utterly fell apart against the Flyers in the playoffs. You don't need those numbers again, do you?
Didn't think so. It can't happen again.
Ray Shero's smartest move of the offseason — yes, even smarter than sticking by Paul Martin — was signing Vokoun. The GM not only found a quality veteran willing to take less — just $2.5 million — to join a contender, but also one who's still got it at age 36. Just ask the last-place Capitals if they wouldn't love him back.
The Penguins absolutely can't let Vokoun go to waste.
Or to get disillusioned.
By every account, the latter isn't close to happening. But I checked, anyway, Tuesday after practice at Consol Energy Center.
“Sure, it's different. You don't play as much,” Vokoun said, with a small laugh. “But there are always tradeoffs for things in life. I wanted to be on a good team with a chance to win the Stanley Cup. When you make that decision, you never know what's going to happen. I'm here to help the team. If I play ‘X' games, I play ‘X' games. Over the years, I've played enough games to know what to do.”
Good for him.
Shouldn't surprise anyone. Vokoun's been a model teammate and goaltending partner.
But he's also a pro. He deserves a chance to maintain his own strong play, which includes a 3-2 record, 2.27 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and a shutout.
More to the point, the Penguins — with their elite talent, their toughness and diversity — deserve better than yet another early playoff exit.
That's why Fleury's vote shouldn't count. Not anymore. Especially not after the meltdown last spring.
Oh, he's having fun, sure. Just look at his grin when saying, “I'm feeling pretty good right now.” Or watch him make a childish fool of himself, as he did in cracking up everyone at practice Tuesday with some shootout hijinx.
And that's great. That's ideal, actually. Fleury's a colossal piece of the franchise.
So go ahead and give him another shot at the Flyers, if that's the call. He beat them in the season opener, and he still might have a demon or two to shoo away.
But after that, the Penguins face the Panthers in two of the next three games. That was Vokoun's employer in 2007-11, and he has a better book than most on their shooters.
Next week also starts a stretch with four of five games on the road. The next three weeks sees one other break as long as two days.
The rest of the season crams in 20 games in 48 days.
There's plenty enough high-velocity vulcanized rubber to go around.
Dejan Kovacevic is a sports columnist for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McKeesport’s Neal to seek musical career in Los Angeles
- Hero Franklin Regional security guard out of work
- Lopsided loss to Eagles shows Steelers have issues aplenty
- O’Hara teen finds inspiration for flying, dodging robot in fruit fly
- DA says statute of limitations prevents action against accused priest
- Unusually cold winter, spring reduces population of Western Pa. stink bugs
- Rain washes out road, blamed in death of Perryopolis man in Perry Township
- Rossi: Time with Penguins taught Bylsma importance of stability
- Steelers notebook: Keisel always hoped to return
- Pirates notebook: Prospect Sanchez makes 1st start at first base with Indy
- For Duquesne priest, Ice Bucket Challenge is personal