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Penguins Turn To Vokoun As Solution To Bigger Problems

Penguins Turn To Vokoun As Solution To Bigger Problems

May 9, 2013

The Pittsburgh Penguins have arguably the most talented group of players in the NHL. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are easily top five players in the entire league. Malkin has now won two MVP awards and two Art Ross Trophies, Crosby could be on his way to his second MVP award this season.

Any team that has that sort of talent will always be among the favorites to succeed when the NHL playoff come around. That potential for success was even more heightened in 2013 after Pittsburgh stormed to first place in the East during the regular season and managed to bolster their line-up with the additions of Jarome Iginla, Douglas Murray and Jussi Jokinen before the NHL trade deadline.

However, the first round series against the New York Islanders is not going as planned. The Penguins have generally been sucked into playing a run-and-gun style of game and they’ve not done too well in it. In Game 4, New York scored six goals in a 6-4 victory, which tied the series up at 2-2.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury conceded a disappointing six goals on 24 shots in that loss. It seems that head coach Dan Bylsma has seen enough of his long-time starting goaltender. He announced on Wednesday that veteran Tomas Vokoun will start Game 5. 28-year old Fleury posted a shutout in Game 1 of this series, but after the past three games his save percentage stands at .891 and GAA at 3.40 for the series. These are undoubtedly confusing statistics.

Vokoun isn’t an unknown quantity either. He is a proven veteran goaltender with an impressive NHL career, mostly as a starter, under his belt. He played 20 games during the regular season posting a 2.45 GAA and .919 save percentage. He can handle this series.

However, even if Vokoun’s presence gives this team a little bit of a boost, there’s no doubt that some worrying patterns have been emerging with Pittsburgh. They’ve been dumped out of the first round in each of the past two seasons. The most concerning fact is that against Tampa Bay in 2011, Philadelphia in 2012 and now the Islanders in 2013, the Penguins have been defensively porous. They’ve been sucked into an up and down skating game and have been prone to defensive errors.

There just seems to be a problem with the mentality of this team. They aren’t able to outscore their opponents in wide open games. They haven’t shown the necessary toughness to battle games out.

Fleury is undoubtedly a part of that problem and shaking up the situation in the crease is by no means a bad move from coach Bylsma. Pittsburgh can probably make it out of this series against a young New York team without playing a tougher and tighter defensive game. However, if they really want to be a serious Stanley Cup challenger, then they are going to need to up their game significantly in some departments. That goes well beyond the identity of the man between the pipes.

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