Blog Entry

Pipe dreams and dilemmas in Pittsburgh

Posted on: October 19, 2010 2:37 pm
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma won’t tip his hand about his starting goalie Thursday in Nashville, probably because he really doesn’t know himself. This actually poses a quandary for Bylsma, and one that he hasn’t really faced since taking over two years ago.

Blame it on Marc-Andre Fleury for being healthy and available. He is creating what could be construed as a controversy these days.

See Fleury is Pittsburgh’s franchise goalie, a rare member of his breed drafted first overall, and he has four more years left on an expensive contract. He’s earned it of course, most notably by preserving the 2009 Stanley Cup with a spectacular last-second save in Game 7 on future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom, and the talented Penguins need him  to be the goalie for them to win again.

It all seems simple enough except that Pittsburgh is doing much better with his backup so far this season.

That’s not the kind of thing coaches generally like to mess with. Besides Fleury was pretty ordinary last spring’s aborted playoff run by Pittsburgh and he has struggled this season. The 25-year-old goalie has already been the target of Bylsma’s public ire, getting called out after a particularly weak loss last week in Toronto, but his other two starts weren’t appreciably better. In fact his numbers so far – an .853 save percentage and 3.41 goals-against – are pretty ugly.

Meanwhile, there is Brent Johnson, a 33-year-old veteran who was once in the conversation about the next standout American-born goalie. Mind you that was a decade ago when Johnson had taken over the starting job in St. Louis, a situation that lasted about a year until some injuries set in. Since then, Johnson has been a journeyman backup, putting up steady if unspectacular numbers during stops in Phoenix, Washington and the minors before getting to Pittsburgh last season.

Johnson did the reliable job expected of him by the Penguins, getting into 23 games last season. But right now, he is one of the biggest reasons Pittsburgh has been getting out of its early funk.  The Penguins lost the first two games of the season at home as they opened their new arena with Fleury in goal, but Johnson got them into the win column on the road in New Jersey, and then won three in a row more after  Fleury’s debacle against the Maple Leafs.

It hasn’t hurt that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have caught fire in the last few games, but Johnson has allowed only six goals in his four starts and has a .950 save percentage. So right now, he’s the hot hand the team should be riding. Problem is Pittsburgh has to get Fleury back on track and the longer it takes to try, the harder it will be.

Funny thing is that Fleury says that nothing should change with the team playing so well, while Johnson says he realizes he is just a place holder, although no one knows for how long.

“I’m not even close to going there now,” Bylsma said after Johnson was lights-out in Monday’s 5-2 win over Ottawa. “Marc-Andre Fleury is our No. 1 guy. He'll get to do that again."

But when?
Category: NHL

Since: Apr 7, 2008
Posted on: November 3, 2010 3:06 pm

Pipe dreams and dilemmas in Pittsburgh

The way Johnny has been playing lately, there is no question who I would start if I were Dan Bylsma. But I'm obviously not Dan Bylsma. I believe that Fleury has more talent than Johnson, but in professional sports such as the NHL, teams and players go through streaks. As a Penguin fan, am I upset that my team has only a .500 winning percentage? Absolutely! However, this doesn't mean I don't have faith that my team will pick up their slack. Soon enough we will have staal, Asham, Michalek and Orpik back to the lineup. Its tough for a team when a lot of their good players are injured, but hey, this is the NHL, shit happens.

Since: Nov 7, 2009
Posted on: October 28, 2010 4:50 pm

Pipe dreams and dilemmas in Pittsburgh

Gotta go with brent johnson. The way the goalies have played, it's an obvious and easy decision at this point. As far as the red wing clown popping off, get over it already. It's been almost 2 years, but damn it must still sting from when the Pens clipped those wings in motown in game 7. Then ate chicken wings from the cup.

Lets Go Pens!

Since: Jan 15, 2007
Posted on: October 21, 2010 9:29 am

Pipe dreams and dilemmas in Pittsburgh

Wingit -- if you hate the Penguins, that is your right but try not to focus your anger at Fleury.   He is truly one of the nicest and and most humble people in professional sports.  He has even stated that Johnson deserves to be the starter now and he is not complaining that he is not in net -- he is a team player.  Fleury is gracioius when interviewed and he is great with kids and the fans when approached. 

As I said, hate the Pens, root against them if you want -- but MAF is a good guy and deserves to be treated better.

Since: Nov 13, 2006
Posted on: October 21, 2010 8:42 am

Pipe dreams and dilemmas in Pittsburgh

I think Bylsma's missing the obvious.  Play the hot tender til you lose.  Worse case you get a few W's or get MAF back in with less pressure once Johnson has come back to Earth.

Also, as an ex-goalie, I appreciate MAF's wonderful talents.  Unfortunately, those talents don't always include stopping the puck, or taking a bad goal out of the net.  I will say, today's game is far better suited to technicians than acrobats.  Halak was unbeatable in the playoffs last year, and I am still not sure I saw him reach for a save.

Since: Jan 21, 2008
Posted on: October 20, 2010 7:42 pm

Pipe dreams and dilemmas in Pittsburgh

I think it's a little early to say there's a goalie controversy... Fleury will find his groove and the Pens will have a solid backup... depth is good!

Since: May 8, 2007
Posted on: October 20, 2010 7:25 pm

Pipe dreams and dilemmas in Pittsburgh

Old news, Hoby.  Still, MAF "pooping" out Zetterberg's Game 6 winner in 2008 is just as memorable.  Before his contract is up, Pens will have to move him because he costs too much. 

Since: Aug 1, 2007
Posted on: October 20, 2010 5:28 pm

Pipe dreams and dilemmas in Pittsburgh

You have the worst grammar/typing skills I have ever seen. I couldnt even understand what you were saying. Go back to 1st grade.

Since: Oct 8, 2009
Posted on: October 20, 2010 12:53 pm

Pipe dreams and dilemmas in Pittsburgh

If I were a Pens fan I wouldn't care whether it was Fluery in net or a trained gorilla -- just as long as they got the 2pts.

There's nothing wrong with starting the hot 'tender.

Since: Nov 15, 2006
Posted on: October 20, 2010 9:40 am

Pipe dreams and dilemmas in Pittsburgh

Yah wingit, too bad he didnt struggle in the stanley cup finals against your wings, maybe your team woulda won another cup...

Since: Sep 6, 2007
Posted on: October 19, 2010 6:29 pm

Pipe dreams and dilemmas in Pittsburgh

There's something I just seem to like love about watching   struggle.  Maybe it's the hyphenated first name or the team he plays for.  It just brings me joy. 

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