Fleury should still be starter
PITTSBURGH-Tomas Vokoun got the call when the Pittsburgh Penguins opened the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs Tuesday night.
It should have been Marc-Andre Fleury.
This is being written before the puck drops, so it’s possible Vokoun got a shutout and made a genius of coach Dan Bylsma.
But here’s why it should have been Fleury:
If the Penguins are going to win the Stanley Cup, they’re looking at three more rounds of playoffs. That’s potentially 21 games. That’s a lot of hockey, probably more than Vokoun can handle after being a back-up in the shortened season.
The Penguins are going to need Fleury at some point. So why not give him the first game of the new series and let him get a fresh start?
It was a perfect time to work him back in. Now he might not get back on the ice until Vokoun fails. In that case, making a later switch from Fleury to Vokoun isn’t quite as good an option as it was in the first round.
Maybe Bylsma saw enough of Fleury flopping and flailing in the first round and decided that he had to stick with Vokoun. Fleury had a shutout in the first game against the New York Islanders, but that must seem like a long time ago.
A lot of goaltending is confidence. No doubt Vokoun is feeling that right now. But it wouldn’t have dented his confidence if he sat and Fleury started.
What does a seat on the beach for Fleury’s mindset?
What’s at stake
It’s been widely suggested that Bylsma’s job security would have been in question had the Penguins lost the first round.
That’s a moot point now, of course, but it never seemed like an especially valid idea.
The Penguins have been disappointing in the early rounds since they won the Cup in 2009. But how much of that can be attributed to coaching?
If Bylsma was doing a lousy job, it would have showed up in the regular season. The Penguins had the best record in the Eastern Conference and second-best in the NHL.
That’s far from failure. The playoffs are the big deal, of course, but the onus should be on the players.
One good thing about the New York Rangers’ advancing to the second round is fans of uncomfortable moments get to watch Rangers coach John Tortorella’s news conferences.
He’s an angry man, always confrontational and always ready to storm away from the podium when things displease him. By the way, a lot of things displease him.
Tortorella has the right look, too, with a beard and beady eyes. He looks like a villain, and he seems to embrace that image.
Even if you’re not much of a hockey fan, keep an eye on Tortorella. He’s great theater.
I’m taking the Penguins in six, and repeat that this is being typed before the puck drops.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org