We discussed this passionately on our Raw Emotion Podcast last night, but it's worth rehashing: how can we tell what type of team the Pens have when Marc-Andre Fleury's performance prevents the Penguins from playing a normal playoff game? Every goalie gives up bad goals. Not every goalie has made a habit of doing so multiple times and at the worst possible times. Every game. And often by scoring on himself. We can and will complain about the generally bad defense later today (though it was better last night), or the run-and-gun mentality, but all of these problems start with Fleury.
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Goalies are not judged the same as other players. By definition, a goalie's job is to mask the mistakes of his team. Every shot the Pens allow is technically a mistake by someone on the Pens because in a perfect hockey game, you'd give up no shots against. So yes, blame Kris Letang and Craig Adams for their idiotic turnover at the Isles' blue-line while shorthanded (or Letang for this idiotic play), but a goalie's job in that situation is to not fall all over himself and let a muffin of a slap shot sail past him into the net. Blame the team defense for allowing sustained pressure by the Islanders on Okposo's goal from behind the net, but for as bad as that was, remember: THAT WASN'T EVEN A SHOT ON GOAL. Goalies don't get to offset their bad goals by pointing to the saves they do make. If Flower stops ten straight breakaways then kicks a pass into his own net, he screwed up.
And even where you can point to specific goals as not being Fleury's fault, how many goals should a team be forced to score to win a playoff game? When did it become accepted that 3 is not enough? Is 4 enough? What about 5? When you have a goalie who not only is incapable of consistently stopping actual shots, but also regularly scores goals on himself, how can the Pens ever "get to their game?" It's impossible for a team to play "the right way" when they aren't going to win unless they score at least 5 goals.
It's hard to overstate how much of an aberration this is from winning playoff hockey, but let's try to quantify. If you take the Pens goal total by game (5, 3, 5, 4, respectively) and compare it to the winning team's goal total by game in each of the other series, the Pens record would be 17-4 with 5 of the games going to overtime.
That's right. 17-4.
(Sorry to get all Rules of Ron Cook on you).
Fleury started plummeting back to Earth in the Montreal series in 2010; now it's turned into NASA's worst fear in Apollo 13. He bounced off the Earth's atmosphere during his descent and is hurtling aimlessly through space. Where he ends up, no one knows. All we know is that he can't start Game 5.
|Next man up.|