A concern that has been lingering with the Pittsburgh Penguins this season has been goaltending and the fact that Marc-Andre Fleury has been overworked. After Wednesday’s 6-5 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs, some questioned Fleury’s condition.
The Penguins netminder was pulled just seconds into the second period after he gave up a goal to James Van Riemsdyk giving the Leafs a 3-1 lead. Jeff Zatkoff replaced Fleury and stopped 11-of-13 shots. He also stopped both Tyler Bozak and David Clarkson in the shootout to secure the win.
Just the fact that Fleury was pulled so soon could stir up speculation that he is not 100 percent. The Penguins have not come out and said if anything is for certain so it could lead us to believe that the guy is flat burned out and needs a rest. So far this season, he has started in 22 of Pittsburgh’s 26 games.
In Monday’s 4-3 overtime loss against the Boston Bruins, the Flower gave up four goals on 24 shots. He then entered the Toronto game two nights later and was yanked. One thing is for certain; head coach Dan Bylsma is a guy who has shown through his coaching antics that he will not start his backup if he does not have confidence in him.
Well, Bylsma may want to reconsider that one this weekend. Looking at the Penguins’ back-to-back games coming up, you would think Fleury would normally get the start against the Tampa bay Lightning on Friday and Zatkoff would get the nod against the Florida Panthers who rank 15th in the Eastern Conference.
Think again. Zatkoff just came off a game where he showed the most confidence all year as he bailed the Penguins when trailing 4-1 early in the second and was solid in the third period, overtime and shootout. The kid has momentum riding on his shoulders now and needs to be in goal for the Penguins on Friday. This will allow Fleury to get some much-needed rest to clear his head and get back to neutral if he is indeed ailing a slight injury.
If Bylsma shows some confidence starting Zatkoff against a Tampa Bay team that is missing Steven Stamkos, Pittsburgh may benefit from it more than you know.