I promise I’m not just trolling for any hockey news that’s not related to the ongoing CBA negotiations.
Alright, maybe I am, but the following bit of information is still interesting.
As reported by the Washington Capitals blog Russian Machine Never Breaks, newly-signed Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender (and former Capital) Tomas Vokoun was told by Pens organization that Marc-Andre Fleury will be playing fewer games in the future.
This nugget was gleaned from a Czech language interview with Caps netminder Michal Neuvirth that Russian Machine Never Breaks translated into English. According to iSport.cz’s reporting, Neuvirth advised Vokoun to sign with Pittsburgh for a couple of reasons:
Just when I was at his place, a few teams contacted him and I told him to go with the Pens. He has a big chance to win the Stanley Cup there. Besides, they told [Fleury] he will play less, because his last playoffs didn’t really work out as well.
This isn’t exactly a revelation. Fleury was forced to play more often in 2011-12 than the Penguins would’ve preferred because backup Brent Johnson proved undependable. Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma have insinuated that Fleury’s subpar postseason (.834 save percentage, 4.63 goals-against average) may have been the result of overwork.
But now we have evidence that Vokoun signed a two-year, $4 million contract with Pittsburgh at least partially because he would be relied upon more than the typical backup NHL goaltender. It’s telling that the Penguins were willing to commit to him to that degree after the 35-year-old concluded an injury-filled one-year stint in Washington.
We all have been impressed with what Fleury can do when at his peak. His playoff performance in 2008 (20 games, .933 SV%, 1.97 GAA) was one of the best postseason runs by a goaltender in recent memory. His 2009 Stanley Cup-winning effort wasn’t too far behind.
However, he has failed to crack the .900 save percentage barrier in his last three postseasons after averaging 66 games over the last three regular seasons.
Conversely, Fleury’s remarkable 2008 playoff came after he was limited to 35 games by a high-ankle sprain at midseason. Management’s job is to inspire the best from its employees, and there’s no shame in admitting that your franchise goaltender isn’t quite the a Henrik Lundqvist-type workhorse.
Fleury is only 27, so he figures to have at least a few years of elite-level play left in him. He can be a difference-maker if his energy levels allow, so it’s only prudent that the Penguins deploy a No. 2 goalie capable of both pushing Fleury and simultaneously keeping him fresh.
We knew this was probably the case, but the Penguins’ goaltending plan is suddenly more tangible since it was part of the team’s pitch to Vokoun.
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