Backup goalie Zatkoff has Penguins talking
By Chris Adamski
Published: Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, 10:33 p.m.
Coach Dan Bylsma said he “can't say enough” about the job Jeff Zatkoff has done as the Penguins' backup goalie.
Zatkoff, apparently, just can't ever say enough, period.
The 26-year-old rookie is coming off a November in which he went 4-0 with a 1.60 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in four appearances, putting the Penguins at ease by stabilizing their goaltending situation behind Marc-Andre Fleury. Tomas Vokoun is out with a blood clot in his pelvis.
Zatkoff has his teammates talking — about how well he has played, about how his confidence has grown, about how the need for the Penguins to acquire a veteran backup has been greatly exaggerated.
Mostly, though, the Penguins like to talk about how much Zatkoff talks.
“I think that he is definitely the most vocal (goalie) I've played with,” captain Sidney Crosby said.
“Extremely talkative,” is now defenseman Matt Niskanen described Zatkoff's on-ice demeanor.
“Chatterbox,” is what Bylsma termed him.
“He maybe talks three times as much as you'd expect a goaltender to be chattering through the game. He took me by surprise in Florida (on Saturday). During a TV timeout, he's at the bench and talking about plays and situations, and I'm like, ‘Jeff … get back in the net.' ”
If Zatkoff keeps repeating his performance from that night, it is safe to say Bylsma and his teammates will let him talk all he wants.
Zatkoff stopped 39 of 40 shots in a 5-1 win three days after he earned the win after allowing two goals in 45 minutes of a game he entered in relief of Fleury against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Zatkoff, a five-year AHL veteran, made his NHL debut in Florida on Oct. 11 and allowed six goals on 30 shots in defeat. That only heightened anxiety about the Penguins' goaltending situation after Fleury was replaced by Vokoun during last season's playoffs and Vokoun's ailment was discovered during training camp. Vokoun won't return until January at the earliest.
“His first game wasn't a memorable one for him,” Bylsma said of Zatkoff, “but since then … he really should have won five in a row, he's played so well.
“He won his first game in Columbus (Nov. 2) by shutout — but maybe he played better even in his next two games (at home against the Islanders on Nov. 22 and the Toronto appearance), and played fantastic in Florida.”
Perhaps the greatest compliment of all from Zatkoff's teammates is an unintentional and disconcerting one: He has, perhaps, so earned the Penguins' trust, they allowed 40 shots against him.
In Zatkoff's first NHL win against Columbus, it was clear the game plan was to pack it in and shield him from attack as much as possible. The Blue Jackets had 19 shots that night, fewer than half the amount Zatkoff faced Saturday.
Zatkoff said he “doesn't look at it that way” and that the shot totals were more a function of Saturday being the second of a back-to-back (but so was the Columbus game) and that the Panthers took more of a shooting mentality.
Regardless of how it manifests itself, it's clear the Penguins have grown to have faith in Zatkoff.
“He's been solid,” Crosby said. “You can see it, with each game, he gets more confident.”
And with confidence comes the chatter.
“I like to talk,” Zatkoff said. “I'm pretty social.”
It's Zatkoff's play that's doing the talking now.
Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.
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.
- Penguins notebook: Letang skating, but no return set
- Penguins notebook: Heralded Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov debuts with Capitals
- Crosby lifts Penguins over Capitals in last game of road trip
- Analysis: Kesler still on Pens’ radar as Shero aims to bring back ‘Big 3’
- Talented center Sutter is proving to be ‘pretty important’ for Penguins
- Penguins GM Shero’s deadline deals: Addition by subtraction
- Penguins notebook: Beau Bennett returns to practice
- Penguins players have Bylsma’s back after Olympic disappointment
- Penguins warming to cold Soldier Field
- Penguins’ Shero a master of NHL trade deadline deals
- Penguins fail to land star center Kesler at NHL trade deadline