It’s never fair to lay a team’s fortunes at the feet of their goalie since while the goalie is an important position, a lot of factors go into wins and losses.
For instance, Pittsburgh couldn’t get past Montreal, last night and in the series, for a few reasons.
Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak was super hot. He was very tough to beat.
The Penguins are tired. They’ve played a lot of hockey over the past few seasons. Playoff games. Olympic games. The Penguins looked exhausted for much of the second half of the season and these playoffs and I think it was because all of that extra hockey finally caught up with them.
The Penguins also missed Hal Gill’s size in their line-up. Montreal is a small team, but for whatever reason, the Penguins struggled to clear out the Habs from down low.
Conversely, the Penguins didn’t have an answer to Gill’s size.
But having said all of that, Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is the reason the Penguins aren’t advancing to the Eastern Conference finals.
He was horrible in game seven, giving up four weak goals before being mercifully yanked. But Fleury has rarely looked particularly strong during the playoffs.
In fact, Fleury has rarely looked strong throughout his career. If you remove last season’s Stanley Cup-winning run from Fleury’s portfolio, you don’t really see a dominant, confident stretch from the young goalie.
And I think that raises the single-most important question the Penguins need to ask themselves this off-season: Is Fleury the kind of goalie that can drive a dynasty?
Because I don’t think he is. And as good as the Penguins are, I’m not sure they have enough talent to compensate for inconsistent goaltending. Halak was hot for the Canadiens, the Penguins couldn’t score at will, and the series came down to defense. And Fleury just didn’t provide enough defense to keep the Penguins in the game or in the playoffs.
The Penguins don’t need an elite goaltender. They don’t need someone to steal games for them. But they do need a consistent goalie who makes the saves he needs to save and doesn’t knock the Penguins out of games too early.
In other words, they need to figure a way to upgrade over Fleury. A dynasty is only as strong as its weakest link. As we saw last night, right now, Fleury is Pittsburgh’s weakest link.