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Columnist: Pens must start Vokoun in Game 5

May 8, 2013, 10:44 AM EDT


After another shaky performance on Tuesday — allowing six goals on 24 shots — Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is once again under fire for suspect postseason play.

And one area columnist thinks it’s time for a change.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is calling for a switch in goal for Thursday’s Game 5, saying that Tomas Vokoun must be the starter.

Here’s more, from the Trib:

Look, I’m a Fleury backer. Have been for the longest time. Even in the context of this series, until this game, I’ve felt the Penguins’ problems were far more rooted in their stupidity and sloppiness.

But 14 goals on 102 shots over the past three games?

And — sit down for this — 40 goals in his past 10 playoff games?

If Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma already haven’t made up their minds on Vokoun for Game 5, they’d better be on the path to doing so.

This, remember, is precisely why Shero wisely invested a two-year, $4 million contract in Vokoun. Yes, it was to reduce the regular-season workload that many blamed for Fleury’s Philly flop last spring. But it also was for playoff insurance, to have a Plan B.

Fleury was despondent after the Isles lit him up in Game 4, spending several minutes with his head in his hands before fielding reporters’ questions in the dressing room.

“I’m not happy, that’s for sure,” Fleury said. “It’s frustrating.”

Kovacevic also noted that Pens head coach Dan Bylsma — who usually strays from talking about lineup choices — gave a full answer when discussing the possibility of switching out Fleury for Vokoun.

“Certainly, Tomas Vokoun is a guy that can step in and play and has had success and won hockey games against this team, was successful this year,” Bylsma said.

“We’re going to come out for Game 5 with a refocus.”

It should be noted that, despite this, Bylsma refused to say who his starter would be on Thursday.

  1. sjsharks66 - May 8, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    I thought that was why they got him anyways?

  2. ziplock10 - May 8, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Vokoun is a decent goalie. If not for Holtby, he’d be starting tonight for the Caps. Starting him is a no brainer. Fleury has clearly lost his mental edge.

    • barkar942 - May 8, 2013 at 11:51 AM

      As his hair grows longer, Fleury looks and plays more like DiPietro.

      • drone501 - May 8, 2013 at 12:06 PM

        he’s not only letting in easy goals but he looks bad doing it. can’t cover the post, and looks like his ass is tethered to the net. keep him in there and we are done. he pulled this stuff last year letting an inferior flyer team advance last year.

      • isithockeyseasonyet - May 8, 2013 at 1:01 PM

        Not letting in easy goals? 2 goals from behind the goal in 2 games…those aren’t good goals

      • phillyphanatic77 - May 8, 2013 at 1:07 PM

        Drone, I agree about Fleury but that kind of arrogance is why plenty of fans and teams hate the Pens organization. The Pens have a stacked roster but when you’re outplayed in every facet of the game you can’t say the opposing team is inferior. I’m sure you’re telling yourself the same thing about the Islanders but guess what… Fleury wasn’t the only problem last night. Your all-star team was outworked, outhustled, and obviously, outscored. They didn’t “let” the Flyers advance last year and they’re not “letting” the Islanders take over this series. They’re getting beaten, plain and simple.

  3. jobotjones - May 8, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    I agree. Averaging 4 goals/game for 10 playoff games is unacceptable.

  4. killerpgh - May 8, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    I can’t see a reason not to. I like MAF, but I can’t see a reason not to give Vokoun a shot at this point.

    • drone501 - May 8, 2013 at 12:09 PM

      maf was my biggest concern heading into the playoffs and he has proved me right unfortunetly.

  5. steelpenbucs87 - May 8, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    I think you start Vokoun but you have to make sure the messaging is right. Sit him down and say “We’re going to let Tomas close out this series here. For better or worse the Islanders have your number. But be ready because we’re coming to you in Game 1 of the next round.” Hopefully that will let him clear his head and be ready. While I think the floor is higher with Vokoun, I think the ceiling is higher with Fleury over the course of the cup run. Maybe just some rest is what he needs to kick-start himself.

    Also I think playing Vokoun might give a mental edge to the rest of the team. Almost like saying, “Hey guys – that’s not Flower back there. We need to play better team defense and be more sound.”

    • hockeywithdrawal - May 8, 2013 at 11:08 AM

      I agree with that – they can’t wait until the next game is out of hand to put Vokoun in, and putting him in for the first time in an elimination game is just wrong. But they also can’t let Fleury sit and stew for the entire off-season either – give him another go next round, if there is one. The series is tied, and the situation is no worse than that. Do it now.

    • islesjb - May 8, 2013 at 11:10 AM

      Typical pens fan- “let Vokoun close out the series” like it’s 3-0 and they just need one more to make it official. Newsflash guy- The isles have been the better team every game except for the first one. If Nabakov can somehow return to his April form, the Penguins are in trouble.

      I am by no means saying that the Islanders have it locked up- just saying that you should stop talking like the Penguins do. This series is going 7, and whoever starts on Thursday better be sharp early because the Islanders are playing with way more heart and intensity than the Penguins.

      Start getting nervous.

      • hockeywithdrawal - May 8, 2013 at 11:16 AM

        Typical New Yorker.

      • steelpenbucs87 - May 8, 2013 at 11:27 AM

        If you actually read what I said rather than looking for things to jump on, I mentioned the “close out the series” bit as what Bylsma would say to Fleury. Of course he wouldn’t say “we’re going to go with Tomas and hopefully we can win a few games.” If anything the rest of my post expressed the concern I have with this team.

        Also given the “typical _____ fan” I would be careful. It wasn’t my team that was cheering loudly after a player took a puck to the neck.

      • fbothharbaughs - May 8, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        “If Nabakov can somehow return to his April form…”

        Big if, wouldn’t ya say? First time in the playoffs in 6 yrs., series tied @ 2, & you Isles fans talk smack?

      • tomahawk12 - May 8, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        Lighten up… was obviously not his opinion or attitude. He was talking as a coach, in a positive manner to a player, not being arrogant. Typical NY fan….win a few games and become a cocky know it all throwing out the “if’s”. I realize you are excited, but remember the series isn’t over yet.

        Typical Pens fan who does expect to win the series. Not a bit nervous.

      • islesjb - May 8, 2013 at 12:36 PM

        Tomahawk- Trust me, I am fully aware that the series is not close to over. Best of 3 still to go. I’m not trying to say that the Isles have this in the bag, because they don’t- neither team does.

        fbothharbaughs- Isles have stayed in this series with Nabby playing very sub-par. I was just speculating on what would happened if he picked up his play and the Pens goaltending remains how its been. Don’t see how that constitutes talking smack.

        And yes, I am very excited- wins like last night’s will do that to you when you haven’t been in the playoffs since 2007.

      • drone501 - May 9, 2013 at 12:12 AM

        i still got plenty of confidence that the pens can win this series in 2 straight. the switch to vokoun will help and the pens have had a couple bad games in a row this season and then came back really strong. thats the way i see it but i could be wrong. i wasn’t wrong about fleury, even before this series started. no confidence in him in big games. he’s still living off of the 7th game cup winner.

    • hockeywithdrawal - May 8, 2013 at 11:32 AM

      No worries bud I think everyone reading that, EXCEPT a New Yorker, would have understood what you meant – he’s been as classless as anyone on this site for the past two days – funny how that works. Makes me wish the NYI were still dormant, which is a shame because the team is doing so well…but the fans are doing their best to make that obnoxious too.

      • jl9830 - May 8, 2013 at 11:42 AM

        I mean, this is what nonstop teasing of a team and its fans will do over ten years. You think these people have heard enough DiPietro jokes? Enough Milbury jokes? Enough Yashin jokes?

        Now people are pissed that Islander fans are being “classless”; well, I’d argue that other fans classlessly bashed the Isles for years and now maybe can put up with the fans enjoying their exciting, young team. This doesn’t excuse bottle throwing and booing injured players- that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the excited fans who are now being called obnoxious. What, you want to tease them about DiPietro for ten years and then expect them not to lose their minds when the Islanders are good?

      • hockeywithdrawal - May 8, 2013 at 11:47 AM

        Cool – the point then becomes that the series is TIED. 2-2.

        IF the NYI were the better team in all but the first one, the series would be 3-1. As it is, here in reality, the winner of the game is generally judged to be the better team. Yes I know – enter the idiots who claim that penalties in OT should not be called (Vancouver agrees with you).

        Being sensitive about the past ten years, yada yada, might have something to do with it – I don’t mind good natured jabs! But let’s wait until the stage isn’t set at a 0-0 series, first to two wins, before the mouths start, eh? NYI has played great – it’s been awesome, in all seriousness.

      • islesjb - May 8, 2013 at 11:53 AM

        “But be ready because we’re coming to you in Game 1 of the next round” is basically an assumption that they’ll be getting there and is what the majority of Penguins fans have been doing this entire series- looking past the Islanders.

        hockeycentral- That’s how it reads. Plain and simple- I guess a “typical New Yorker” has solid reading comprehension. Thanks. Not looking to get into a personal back in forth with some internet dude so I’ll just leave it at that.

        jl9830- well said. Isles fans deserve this and haven’t had too much to be excited about for a long time. Can’t say I agree with the bottle throwing or the cheering of the Crosby injury and it does make us look bad, but it is what it is I guess. Islanders fans have a chip on their shoulder after all these years of abuse.

      • jl9830 - May 8, 2013 at 11:55 AM

        Because hockey is that clear cut. The Islanders were the better team in Game 3; they easily outshot and out chanced the Pens. It was special teams that did the Islanders in. The Penguins are lucky it’s not 3-1 NYI. They need to figure it out fast or they’re going home.

        And no, let’s not wait. This series is freaking awesome. Let the mouthing off fly. If PIT doesn’t like it, or feels disrespected, they can play better. The Islanders are earning serious respect in this series.

      • hockeywithdrawal - May 8, 2013 at 12:33 PM

        The Isles are earning respect because most people – including their mouthy fans, were calling them trash coming in to the season. And when it was announced they’d be moving…holy hell I’ve never seen a team boo’d on their own ice so much…let’s face it – we’re all glad you have something to cheer about, but you’re all patting yourselves on the back as if you’re applauding work you’ve done yourself. Obnoxious (normally people don’t consider New Yorkers obnoxious, I know)…far as I can tell, Pens fans have given those guys on the ice NOTHING but credit for some outstanding work thus far. And the series is tied. There’s no dispute about who SHOULD have won game 3. The Pens SHOULD have won it, because the Pens WON it. Hockey is that clear cut when the final buzzer sounds.

      • steelpenbucs87 - May 8, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        @islesjb – dude you’re not getting it. You keep pulling quotes from what I said Bylsma should say! He has to be positive – call it a little bit of fan fiction here.

        Look I know you’re upset because “no one is taking you seriously and no one is looking past you” so here – allow me to say, on behalf of all Pens fans. We are taking you seriously. We may not have to this point, which is part of why we find ourselves where we are today

      • islesjb - May 8, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        Fair enough- this is pointless but I can’t help myself- If that were the case, then the Pens coach would be looking past the Islanders assuming they’re going to make it to the second round!!! TYPICAL PENGUINS COACH!!! (now I’m just being an @$$)

        I’ll stop now. Yes you’re right- it is frustrating when people overlook the Isles so its hard to hold back because for the first time, we actually have something legitimate to say in response. Thank you for acknowledging our legitimacy. It’s been a great series so far and has reminded me that playoff hockey is the greatest thing in the world.

  6. podevil - May 8, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    MAF should have been pulled after the third goal last night…I think the playoffs are too much for Fluery…Allowing too many soft goals!

    • hockeywithdrawal - May 8, 2013 at 11:12 AM

      There’s definitely something wrong mentally, and if it weren’t for two Stanley Cup finals and countless amazing playoff games from the kid maybe you’d have a point. He can handle the playoffs – he just can’t handle them right now. The last couple years have crushed him.

      Goalies are crazy to begin with – it might be as simple as getting him some magic underoos for the next game he plays in.

    • miketoasty - May 8, 2013 at 11:14 AM

      I guess they were too much when he backed them to two stanley cup final runs, and a stanley cup victory? This guy is having a rough go, but he has shown he can have playoff success. Start Vokoun Thursday, let Fleury get his game back and have him come back strong next series.

      • laxman1944 - May 8, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        Once you let the genie out of the bottle……..can’t go back.

        MAF has been shaky since winning the cup 4 years ago……..

        And what is up with your Pens and the end of games?? Last season game 3 and Neal/Malkin decide to be head hunters

        Game 4 last night and it’s all over again……WTF???…..Malkin jumps the kid and goes to town with uppercuts while the kid is being held……Classy….


  7. jpelle82 - May 8, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    gotta do it now…cant wait until an elimination game to test him. if he is worse at least you have game 6 to bounce back with fleury if necessary

    • blackfoot11 - May 8, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      J, based on our prior posts, was the leash for Fluery too long in your opinion or about right?

    • fantasyhockeyguru - May 8, 2013 at 12:02 PM

      I’m not sure Fleury has the mental capacity at this stage, to come back at all after being benched. He doesn’t look like he has the mental capacity to handle much right now. IF Vokoun came in and had success, the Pens would be idiotic to start the next series off with Fleury instead..

      • drone501 - May 8, 2013 at 12:12 PM

        just think pens fans, we could have had brent johnson starting tomorrow.

  8. erbaker67 - May 8, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    Maybe its just me, but does anyone else notice just how slow we look compared to the Isles? Not just defensively, but in the offensive zone, we are getting beat to pucks. The only one I can remember us beating is when Sutter scored when Cooke took Carkner hard to the boards. If the Pens game plan is to get behind their D and work from below the goal line, its not working. They need to change, not just the goalie, but how they attack. What about putting Despres in for someone? Im not a head coach and I do not know who you take out but they need speed on the backend right now, atleast IMO.

    • hockeywithdrawal - May 8, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      Despres played last game – he did not look good at all. He’s made some mistakes in the regular season (just normal lapses in judgement), and he made a bunch on Sunday too. I think that’s why now that Brooks is back we won’t see him. Maybe if someone else goes down.

      But you’re right, they looked slow compared to the NYI…because they ARE slow compared to the NYI. I’d also say they look a little uninspired.

  9. brainoflindros - May 8, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    “This, remember, is precisely why Shero wisely invested a two-year, $4 million contract in Vokoun. Yes, it was to reduce the regular-season workload that many blamed for Fleury’s Philly flop last spring. But it also was for playoff insurance, to have a Plan B.”

    His workload is what they blamed Fleury’s Philly flop on last year. Talk about making excuses…maybe he is not that good. Last night was what not to do as a goalie…he looked terrible, and far from his steal a game form. Would still use him and not Vokoun…I think Vokoun is just as bad…but I am rooting for the Isle…Stinking Pens…would be the best thing to see this upset.
    Barry Melrose actually said, if Pens lose series, “PENS BECOME THE MOST OVERRATED TEAM IN THE NHL!” That is still a big IF, but…series is 2-2….

  10. neilbarne - May 8, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    I agree, I think Vokoun has to play at least one game. If he is great, he stays in net. There is no doubt that Fleury is not on his game.
    That said, he is not the only one to blame. The pens have got to stop turning over the puck…its ridiculous for us to turn over the puck in our zone that many times. We need a serious dose of remove head from rectum today and get back to playing our way. I know that you need to rest in the playoffs…yada yada…but today better not be an ‘optional’ practice. Today better be all hands on deck and getting back to basics because the entire roster is not on board with something.
    For this team to have been out played for three straight games is rediculous…
    Pens, get your heads right and play your game…Let’s go pens!

  11. pitpenguinsrulez - May 8, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Disco must start Vokoun in Game 5. Vokoun has had an excellent record vs. the Isles this season. Beach Ball Fleury, as Broadstreetbeatdown calls him, is just not money in the playoffs. If we advance to round 2 then yes you give Fleury another start but he cant keep this abysmal play. Buying out Fleury in the offseason is slowly becoming a reality in my view. Disco needs to chew Malkin out!! His stupidity overshadows his great play at times. He takes stupid penalties constantly and its like once you rattle Malkins cage he becomes useless. Disco or someone needs to sit him down and tear him a new one. Crosby is the only player who plays a FULL game and plays with heart out there.

    • laxman1944 - May 8, 2013 at 12:51 PM

      Disco is Dead……..Long Live Rock and Roll…..

  12. philly4lyfe - May 8, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    will be the most over-rated team in the nhl? considering they were picked as the fav to win it all by everyone in the media the last two years, and they got laughed outta the first round last year and are struggling mightily with the 8th seeded islanders this year, I’d say they’ve made a very compelling case for that title already.

    • fbothharbaughs - May 8, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      So says the fan of a team currently applying SPF 30 to each other’s backs…

      • laxman1944 - May 8, 2013 at 2:01 PM

        You know what thunder nutts????

        He is spot on wether you and you zelots (not all) like it or not.

        The media has annointed this club for the past several years as the end all……please…….

      • fbothharbaughs - May 9, 2013 at 10:52 AM

        1. -5 for “zeAlots”
        2. I certainly was not disputing the fact the pens need to start Vokoun; Fleury’s been horrid games 2-4.

    • drone501 - May 8, 2013 at 12:13 PM

      as a pens fan, i agree. unless time proves otherwise.

  13. fantasyhockeyguru - May 8, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    What everyone isn’t thinking too much about, is that if Fleury got benched and Vokoun gets a start, Fleury is DONE. After last year’s playoffs and now this, if they bench him for Vokoun, he does not have the mentality to get past or over that. You cannot bench Fleury and still plan to go back to him at this point..they have to go all-in either way, and I think that is why the starter hasn’t been discussed still (as well as the ‘edge’ they can get from waiting until game morning)

    • fantasyhockeyguru - May 8, 2013 at 12:06 PM

      I mean done for the playoffs, not for future seasons or such

      • drone501 - May 8, 2013 at 12:15 PM

        is eiggle dead or what. maybe his mom didn’t pay for his internet service. kind of miss his anti pens ramblings.

  14. columbiannecktie - May 8, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Watching Fleury’s play in the playoffs the last couple years I can’t believe this guy ever backstopped a team to a cup.

  15. bardown66 - May 8, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    I usually give fleury benefit of the doubt. No longer, it’s time for vokoun. Lemieux has to sit geno down and tell that turn over prone ass to grow up. He is a disorganized child on the ice, just like last year. IF they blow this and don’t even make the finals this year only Shero and Sid should be safe from the mess that follows. This whole team
    Needs chewed out big time. It’s time to start hearing KOOOOUUUUUNNNN chants ringing trough the CEC. Being on game 5, LETS GO PENS!

    • bardown66 - May 8, 2013 at 12:40 PM

      Edit bring* not being

  16. snied - May 8, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    Classless? Crosby intentionally chopped at Datsyuk’s well-publicized injured ankle in 2009 Finals. Crosby got the jeers he deserved last night from Isles fans.

    • bardown66 - May 8, 2013 at 12:42 PM

      People get chopped all the time…people always target stars and tend to run people who are already hurting. Te fate of Eric Lindros got example. Not saying its right what he did, just that it happens. Get over it.

  17. modellforprez - May 8, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    sorry Dejan and pen fans not gonna happen. i know Vokey was brought in for this excact purpose but maybe of all people torts yes that torts had a point when he said they are arrogant because its clear to me that even though vokey is 3-0 against the isles he should get the start but probably wont. isles in 7

  18. bcisleman - May 8, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    Anyone who follows my posts knows I was saying all along that goaltending would play a much larger role in this series than the return of Sid. Unfortunately too many Pit fans are acting like its all about Flower. The fact is that the Isles–apart from Game 1 which I largely attribute to the fact that almost none of them including Coach Capuano had any playoff experience–have simply been outplaying the Pens as a team. Pens have been sloppy as this beat writer points out, but so have the Isles. Pens first two goals last night were due to missed Islander assignments. Now at least no one will be able to use goaltending as an excuse if the Pens lose this series (as I think they will).

  19. philly4lyfe - May 8, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    ahhh yes, the old “your team isn’t in the playoffs so your not allowed to have an opinion” argument. always a grade-school mentality classic.

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