Remember that big question mark the Pittsburgh Penguins had in net? The one that involved a very shaky Marc-Andre Fleury and his veteran backup Tomas Vokoun? Well, the season hasn’t even started for the Penguins, but the question mark is now gigantic.
Recently, it was reported that Vokoun would miss some time due to a blood clot in his pelvic region. It appears “some” time is an understatement. Vokoun underwent surgery to treat the clot, and is now looking at a recovery timetable of three to six months. This leaves Pittsburgh with the goalie options of Fleury and…well, that appears to be it.
Despite helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2009, Fleury has been anything but steady in the past few years. Most recently, he was yanked after doing his best impression of a sieve against the New York Islanders last postseason. Vokoun, in mop-up duty, was serviceable, holding steady for the most part as the Penguins eliminated the Islanders, as well as the Ottawa Senators in the following round. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the road ended in the Eastern Conference Finals by way of lopsided sweep from the Boston Bruins. Vokoun did as best he could throughout the series, but when your team only gives you two goals in four games, even 100% effort isn’t going to get a win.
Now, it looks like Pittsburgh will be forced to rely solely on Fleury once again. The team didn’t make any attempt to move him on the offseason, and because of that they’re left with minimal options to help deal with Vokoun’s time on the disabled list.
GM Ray Shero intimated he’s perfectly fine using the cast he has now, which includes Fleury and untested AHL prospect Jeff Zatkoff. The 26-year-old rookie has done a decent job for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate, with a 1.93 GAA and .920 save percentage. However, he hasn’t stepped foot on NHL ice yet. Regardless, Shero seems pretty comfortable with what he has.
“I want to go with the goaltending we have here and see how we do,” Shero told reporters. “Like anything, you’ll evaluate as you go. Since Tomas has been out I know who every available free agent goalie is because I’ve gotten calls from their agents and other teams.
“Right now I want to go with this and see how we do. I want to give Jeff the opportunity, which I think he’s deserved.”
What’s worse, Fleury’s no longer fighting for his job now that he doesn’t have a more than capable backup waiting for his first mistake. The added pressure could keep him calm in the crease, or it could result in less white knuckle effort knowing he doesn’t have to watch his back when it comes to starting.
We’ve seen goaltending undo this team in the past, and unless Fleury has an extreme renaissance in net this season, it may be déjà vu in Pittsburgh.