One thing stuck out during the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers was that Marc-Andre Fleury stunk. Not to give the defense any passes as lazy backchecking was responsible for at least two goals, but the ‘old’ Fleury was very alive and present last night.
How quickly things can change?
For Penguins, fans it is likely an overused statement that it is always noticeable when the ‘bad’ Fleury is in net. Flopping in the crease, over-committing and having to fight off the easiest of saves are some of the symptoms that you see in Fleury during a bad game, or leading up to a struggling start.
There is no doubt that this is a start that Fleury wants to forget, and he will have to if he is to continue to have success this year. But in watching Fleury flop around and struggle to make saves, I immediately thought of two people — Tomas Vokoun and Jeff Zatkoff.
Two questions came to mind when thinking of them. If Vokoun was healthy, would Fleury have been relieved at some point in that game? And if so, is Zatkoff really the answer as the backup?
It’s not really fair to Zatkoff either, as he sat on the bench the whole time and is coming off his first career win in a shutout. It was a great step in the right direction for Zatkoff especially after his rough first two starts, but does this say more about what the Penguins believe they have in him?
The two biggest (and most obvious) duties of a backup is to give the starter break now and again, and to be able and be the ‘relief pitcher’ in games like last night. It saves Fleury’s confidence from completely getting rocked, and we have all seen what happens when his confidence appears to take a hit.
The Penguins have literally (according to Capgeek.com) no cap space to take on the salary of another goaltender, and it would require moving a big piece (ie. my Matt Niskanen/Paul Martin question from the other day) to create room to add an outside goalie.
Jeff Deslauriers is an option, although if his career numbers are any indication, it might not be that much of an upgrade. One of the goalies from the Anaheim Ducks are an option, but Viktor Fasth controls a $2.9 million cap hit and Jonas Hiller has a worst cap hit of $4.5 million.
An even more extreme case would be Martin Brodeur, who recently said he would consider waiving his no-trade clause. It would take quite a haul to bring him in, and the Penguins would almost without a doubt have to overspend to get him and his veteran presence to compete with Fleury for playing time.
It would take two crazy general managers to complete that move, and regardless of what Brodeur says, I don’t think the Devils can afford to take that kind of fan relation hit. Then again, Ray Shero is no stranger to crazy trades.
It’s hard to write two people off after one bad start, especially since one of them didn’t even play, but if Fleury showed anything, it’s that the Penguins should go by the motto ‘hope for the best, prepare for the worst’.
Anthony Murphy is a contributing writer for RantSports.com. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on twitter @AMurphyTFC.