Shaky Fleury gives Penguins little margin for error
The sign on Interstate 76 East on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border on a dim Monday morning reads "You Are On The Road To The Stanley Cup." After two games of the 2009 final, evidence suggests the road is right but the direction is wrong.
Five hours from Joe Louis Arena in Detroit to anachronistic Mellon Arena in revitalized downtown Pittsburgh, past roughly as many speed traps in Ohio as deer carcasses along the highway -- you needed to take off socks and shoes to count them all -- a traveler pondered the notion that the Pittsburgh Penguins seem no closer to solving their true dilemma.
Things could be worse for the Penguins, who were not the deer-in-the-headlights team that began the 2008 final. There are some obvious advantages to being home for Game 3, starting with matchups.
The Igloo crowd should also provide a nice early jolt to the Penguins, which, like a little caffeine, could carry them for 10 minutes or so until their roiled emotions still and hockey takes over.
But for all the chatter about the first two games -- the spotty officiating, Penguins ringing posts, the gurgling emotions of Crosby in the first game and Malkin (next scheduled bout,
This is the elephant in the room for the Penguins, or at least
Of the six Detroit goals in the first two games, three have been gift-wrapped. A pair ticked off Fleury's legs and into the net in Game 1, happenstances that were written off to rebounds off the lively boards that Detroit knows as well as
Fleury adjusted in Game 2, staying deeper in his crease. (Indeed at times he looked like he was as deep as
After the game, Crosby, who also voiced his support, said he guessed Fleury would have wanted a mulligan on the shot. No kidding.
Sometimes goaltending is as much about when as how many. A steady run of strong saves stacked one upon the other can be razed by a single soft goal. Against a Detroit team as poised as a runway model, and with
Fleury certainly is capable of rebounding. In the riveting Game 5 triple overtime against the Red Wings last year, he stopped 55 of 58 shots, making a spectacular toe save on a
Fleury can no longer be judged on a body of work, which, with two straight appearances in the final, rates as formidable. He will be only as good as his next save in Game 3.
Unless Pittsburgh revs its attack -- Bylsma's "net-front presence" was the phrase of the day -- Fleury will have no margin for error. He will be working without a net, except for that four-by-six foot cage behind him that the Red Wings have breeched far too easily.