The Pittsburgh Penguins got hit with a dose of reality two years in a row, and while they have been among the busiest teams in the offseason, they have failed to make any moves at the goaltender position.
That may prove to be their undoing in 2013-14. While Marc-Andre Fleury was once good enough to help the Penguins secure the Stanley Cup in 2009, he has been disastrous in the playoffs each of the last two years.
The Penguins could have addressed their situation in goal in the offseason, but they chose to extend Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang. They also brought in Rob Scuderi from the Los Angeles Kings via free agency.
Perhaps general manager Ray Shero believes that Fleury is going to recapture his old form. Perhaps he believes he will win the Lotto the day after tomorrow.
Neither scenario is realistic.
It's one thing for a goaltender to bounce back from one awful playoff experience, but it's quite another to do it two years in a row.
Even if Fleury is just reaching what should be the prime of his career at the age of 28, he has the memory of two recent postseason nightmares. In 2012, the Penguins were bombed out of the playoffs by the Philadelphia Flyers, largely because Fleury (4.63 goals-against average, .834 save percentage) was incompetent between the pipes.
This year, it seemed as though the eighth-seeded New York Islanders were on their way to upsetting the Penguins in the first round. Again, Fleury (3.52 GAA, .883 save percentage) seemed to be the main culprit. Head coach Dan Bylsma replaced Fleury with backup Tomas Vokoun. He helped turn the series around, which allowed the Penguins to survive and advance.
Vokoun remained in goal in the Pens' conference semifinal matchup against the Ottawa Senators. But when the the Penguins were getting blown out by the Boston Bruins in the second game of the Eastern Conference Final, Bylsma gave Fleury another chance. He was ineffective once again.
In the offseason, the indignities continued. Fleury was not given any consideration for Canada's Olympic team. It's another slight that Fleury is going to have to contend with before the start of the season.
Fleury is taking a step to improve his mental outlook. According to Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Fleury is going to see a sports psychologist to help him get over his problems.
Sports psychologists are becoming quite popular in professional sports. It certainly can't hurt Fleury in attempting to get over his postseason trauma. However, it seems like a small step when a major one is needed.
Shero suggested Fleury talk to a psychologist. He's glad that Fleury is trying to make a change.
“Goalie is a delicate position, no different than a golfer or a tennis player: You're on your own a lot,” Shero told Starkey. “I think it's a good step for him, which he's really taken seriously since our year-end meeting."
Golfers tend to be the most open in their use of sports psychologists. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Luke Donald are among the most well-known golfers to take advantage of their services.
Shero chose to re-sign Letang, Dupuis, Kunitz and Malkin and bring in Scuderi. He might have helped the Penguins more if the he had signed three or four of the five. He could have used the left over salary-cap money to bring in a new goaltender.
Going to a psychologist could help Fleury, but it might not have the impact the Penguins would like to see.
If Fleury fails in the postseason again, the Penguins could be looking for a new goalie and may consider hiring a new general manager.
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