Random Musing On This Wednesday Night
It’s amazing how one day it feels like traditional hockey weather and the next day it feels like summer. As I was outside piddling in my yard this evening, I had some time to think about the Pittsburgh Penguins and since time remains on my side, I’ll put my thoughts out there for everyone to read…
The Fleury Conundrum
Dan Bylsma, Ray Shero and the Penguins are in a difficult spot right now. Marc-Andre Fleury has returned to his 2012 playoff form, forcing a change to veteran Tomas Vokoun, who has grabbed the bull by the horns, winning three in a row.
I’ve heard many fans and experts alike suggest that the right move would have been to allow Fleury to play in Game 1 against the Ottawa Senators. I’ve also heard many opinions that were the exact opposite.
So what is/was the right choice? Well, I think we got the answer. Vokoun won, so clearly the choice was correct. Hindsight is 20/20, but foresight says you don’t change a winning lineup in the playoffs.
Vokoun has played well in his three games, and may continue to do so. Until he doesn’t, he needs to remain in goal.
Some say that Fleury is the franchise goalie and therefore he needs to play. Others say Vokoun is too old and too far removed from his starting days to backstop this team to a Stanley Cup.
I say Fleury hasn’t earned anything this playoff year and doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. If the goal is to win, every move should be about maximizing the chances. Playing Fleury does not.
It pains me to write this, as I am and always have been a huge Fleury fan — but Fleury very well could be wearing his Penguins uniform for the last time this spring.
Dupuis’ Coming Of Age
The opposite of what I just wrote couldn’t be truer of Pascal Dupuis. The man with no hands, as he was referred to with frustration early in his Penguins tenure, has grown into his surroundings to become an invaluable piece of the puzzle.
His shorthanded goal last night was impressive for two reasons. First, the timing was clutch. At a point in the game when the Senators could have created some momentum in mounting a potential comeback, Dupuis took control and dashed their hopes. Second, did you see it? That was a goal scorer’s goal.
But why should we be so surprised? He’s progressively grown into a scoring line winger on this team and has proven over the last few years that his success is not dependent on playing with Sidney Crosby.
At an age when most players are seeing their numbers and game in general decline, Dupuis is flourishing. Maybe it’s a comfort zone. Maybe it’s being put in the perfect positions to succeed. Or maybe it’s hard work. Whatever it is, he is a player the Penguins cannot afford to lose to free agency this summer.
Overall Feelings On This Second Round
Shifting from individual players to the team as a whole, I’d like to discuss my brief thoughts on this series.
The easy thing to say going into this series was that the Penguins struggled against the lowest ranked playoff team and therefor would have even more problems with the Senators, who by most/all counts are a far superior team to the Islanders.
But hockey isn’t easy. The Islanders were a particular type of kryptonite to the Penguins, who had fits trying to handle their speed, tenacity, and relentlessness.
The Senators are a much more traditional hockey team, relying on skilled, systematic hockey and a handful of world-class players, as opposed to the Islanders, who relied on their speed and a high number of low-percentage shots.
The Penguins looked much better last evening in their 4-1 win than they had looked in perhaps any of the six games of the first round.
Maybe that was a result of reflection, knowing that a poor showing against the Senators wouldn’t be as favorable as a poor showing against the Islanders.
I think that’s part of it.
But the bigger part, in my opinion, is a better match-up with a team that just can’t handle the waves of talent and physicality the Penguins can and will throw at them.
This won’t be an easy series. No one should expect it to be. But those suggesting a second round exit is inevitable because of the first round? Well, they’re flat out wrong.
I said yesterday in “Lacing Up” that the Penguins would win in five. I’ll stand by that prediction after watching Game 1 — but I wouldn’t be the least bit shocked if the Penguins claimed victory in just four.