Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Three Changes and a Reminder: How the Pens can get back on track in Game 5

By Artistry (follow me on Twitter)

[Read our Fleury-centric recap here and listen to the recap podcast below]

Make no mistake about it -- the sky IS falling.  But it hasn't fallen yet.  Here are three changes the Pens need to make to avoid the unthinkable.  Spoiler alert: the first one is obvious.

1. Fleury out, Vokoun in.

This has now been made official.

We just want the Penguins to play a normal playoff game, and Tomas Vokoun has normal playoff numbers. Despite his longevity, he's had the misfortune of playing much of his career in Nashville and Florida, where he appeared in a grand total of two playoff series, both with the Predators. Those two series came in 2003-04 and 2006-07 against very good Red Wings and Sharks teams. In 11 games, Vokoun had a .922 save percentage and a 2.47 goals against. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't had a playoff save percentage that high since 2007-08. Fleury hasn't had a save percentage over 90% since 2008-09.

2. Maybe it really is the Year of Bob

Mark Eaton has gone from hero to goat in the blink of a Michael Grabner breakaway. Just a week ago, people were talking about erecting a statue of the man who stabilized the Pens' defense, and last night he built his own monument to his play in the form of a heaping pile of absolute dogshit. In 10:28 of ice time, Eaton was on the ice for no fewer than 4 Islander goals. That takes some doing. And he actually played better in Game 4 than in Game 3.  This is not to say Eaton is no longer serviceable, it's just that he may no longer serviceable in this particular series. Just as with Fleury, the time has passed for stubbornly standing by players who aren't performing. There's no time. We know Despres and Engelland were swallowed up by the moment in their brief appearances. So it's time to ask the question: What about Bob?

Look at Bob. So ready. So aware.
3. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a Tanner Glass problem

There's one more lineup change that's overdue: Tyler Kennedy for Tanner Glass. Or put another way, a 4th line player with a history of north-south play and scoring huge playoff goals for Tanner Glass.

And finally, some perspective.

The Internet makes the sting of the Game 4 loss so immediate and so pronounced, that this moment has a power over us that it doesn't deserve. Remember your history, and we're not talking about 2012. In 1991 the Pens played an inferior Devils team and split the first two games in Pittsburgh. Then they split two games in New Jersey. The Devils even went so far as to win Game 5 in Pittsburgh. The Pens were down 3-2 to the Devils going back to NJ facing elimination, WITHOUT AN INJURED TOM BARRASSO. Frank Pietrangelo - who was no Tomas Vokoun - makes The Save, and comes back to shutout the Devils in Game 7. Then back-to-back Cups happened. This is all based on memory, but our memories are good. The point is, no one has any idea what's about to happen. We're just along for the ride.


  1. Re: Flower - Sitting Fleury might be the most obvious goalie decision in the history of the SC playoffs. I've defended him before, and during the season, he generally looked like he warranted that confidence. But no more. It's truly stunning that a player can have such a radical shift in his level of play between the two seasons. (But, hell, we could say that about the whole damn team.) I worry about Vokoun's ability to recover - he often ends up flopping around like a fish when he goes down - but he surely can't be worse.

    Re: Glass v. TK - I assume Glass has gotten the starts because he kills - and that has actually been the one bright spot all series. (Ironic, given that this is what everyone was most concerned about.) At this point, though, I'd be willing to try anything - possibly, you know, like actually playing Bennett. Someone ought to be able to absorb those minutes. He isn't Cooke or Duper on the PK.

    Re: Eaton v. Bob - Can't argue that Eaton has to go, at least for the series. But Bob? Remember how bad he looked when he played at the end of the year? As far as I'm concerned - the biggest coaching mistake DB has made was his insistence on sitting the young guys for two weeks every time they were responsible for a goal. Lord knows Engelland didn't get that treatment.

    Had they got consistent playing time over the whole season - either Bob or (ideally) Despres might be legitimate possibilities right now. Now their confidence is shot and their game is rusty. They looked so much better right after they came from WBS and were playing regularly than they did at the end of the year. That's probably partly bc things have amped up - but much more because their development has been interrupted. I would have no confidence putting either in - and neither will Bylsma.

    I guess what I'm saying - welcome back to the lineup Engo. *cringe*

    1. Great point about the rust factor among the young D-men. Seems like the team tried to develop three sixth defensemen at once and ended up developing none of them. Should have just picked one and said, "This is our guy."

    2. Might be right on Engo, Brandy. Sad to think we're in "Throw everything against the wall and see what sticks" mode, but here we are.