The Penguins have finally made the switch so many had hoped for.
Tomas Vokoun will start in place of Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 5 tomorrow at Consol Energy Center.
Fleury allowed six goals on 24 shots in last night's 6-4 road loss to the Islanders in Game 4. The goal which appeared to seal his fate came on a play where Islanders forward Kyle Okposo played a puck from behind the net into Fleury's stick. The puck then deflected into the net. That goal tied the game, 3-3, with 1:24 remaining the second period.
After posting a shutout during a 5-0 win in Game 1, Fleury has allowed 14 goals in the past three games. In four postseason games, he has a 2-2 record with a 3.40 save percentage, .891 save percentage and one shutout.
Vokoun will be appearing in his first postseason game since 2007 when he was a member of the Predators. This past regular season, he appeared in 20 games and has a 13-4-0 record with a 2.45 goals against average, .919 save percentage and three shutouts. He played in four games this past regular season against the Islander and posted a 3-0-0 record with a 0.90 record, a .970 save percentage and one shutout.
EN Says - There were a handful of reasons Vokoun was brought to the Penguins last offseason. This is one of them. If Marc-Andre Fleury struggled once again, the Penguins would have a much better option as a backup.
This isn't Brent Johnson, Mathieu Garon, Ty Conklin or Dany Sabourin. This is a former all-star goaltender. Vokoun is arguably the best backup goaltender in the Eastern Conference and perhaps even the entire NHL. And now he has the Penguins immense postseason expectations in his hands.
Fleury clearly did not play well. But what can't be denied is the horrendous defense played in front of him (and in one case by Evgeni Malkin, on top of him) for the past three games.
Simply put, Fleury was placed in a bad situation for the past three games and failed to perform.
The Penguins found a way to shut down John Tavares in Game 1. The Hart Trophy candidate was held without a shot and Fleury posted a shutout. Last night, Tavares got three shots on net, including two off a turnover by Malkin. The second shot turned out to be the game-winner as Malkin had fallen on to Fleury who made a strong save on the initial shot by Tavares.
This is a much bigger problem than the goaltending position. There's no question Fleury has to be better. He can't let in fluky soft goals such as the one he allowed to Okposo. But at the same time, his teammates have to better with regards to discipline, puck management and structure in the defensive zone.
How many times can a goaltender defend a three-on-one against an opponent's top line with Mark Eaton trying to block the pass? Do you think the Kings Jonathan Quick or the Blues' Brian Elliott has to routinely stop 20-goal scorers like Matt Moulson on his doorstep all alone they way Fleury had to in the third period of last night's game.
A change had to be made. Fleury has given the coaching staff every reason to pull him. Perhaps this switch will give the Penguins a chance to refocus and quit trying to play run-and-gun hockey with the speedy Islanders.
Ultimately, you can't blame Fleury or Vokoun if the rest of this series goes south for the Penguins. Their teammates have to play a more responsible game from here on out.
(Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)