Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
One of the things people said constantly throughout the Pittsburgh Penguins' six-game series victory over the New York Islanders was that their play was well below the expected level of quality.
In fact, the most common refrain was that this particular brand of awful play -- rife with defensive irresponsibility and baffling lack of execution for a team that was pretty much incredible from start to finish this year -- was probably only good enough to get them past a try-hard pretender like the Islanders.
Against a real team, it was generally agreed, this kind of play would result in them losing the series in short order, probably pretty badly.
But that kind of talk ignores two things. First, we were told repeatedly by just about everyone that if there was any team the Penguins, not exactly fleet-of-foot, didn't want to take on in the playoffs, it was these New York Islanders. And yeah, they had their hands full throughout, but still never really looked to be in all that much trouble; the scores were close, yes, but they still only needed six games to put these guys out of their misery.
Second, and more important, is that — lo and behold — the second they took Marc-Andre Fleury out of the crease, they won both games. That's not to say that Tomas Vokoun really won them either game, because he didn't. He posted a shutout in Game 5 because almost any goaltender in the world (with at least one notable exception) would have, but he was also victimized on occasion by the bad defensive work that didn't help Fleury much either.
But the fact of the matter is that if you have pretensions of winning a Stanley Cup, your goaltender has to at least be league-average. The Penguins, with their galaxy of stars and excellent coach and top-quality GM, have that goal. They do not have that goaltender. People will argue that Fleury is a winner, insofar as he won a Stanley Cup. Four years ago. Since that postseason, when he posted just a .908 save percentage and a not-good 2.61 GAA, his save percentage has crept above .899 precisely zero times. This year, when he gave up 14 goals on 128 shots in four games before Bylsma dead-bolted the door to the doghouse from the outside.
Or at least, he should; there's only so many times an entire team can roll its eyes and think, "Oh no, not again," like a pot of petunias, before it's the only reasonable course of action.
I don't know how much longer we need to suffer through the narrative that Fleury is any good at all before it crumbles to sand and is scattered by the wind. That is, if it hasn't done so already behind save attempts like this and this and most notably this.
I mean, look, the fact of the matter is that apart from one good playoff run five years ago in which he fell a game short of winning the Stanley Cup for that not-quite-ready Penguins team, he has always been sub-average, and now things are getting markedly worse.
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