The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Pro

June 9, 2013

Bylsma: Fleury to regain starting job

PITTSBURGH — As the Pittsburgh Penguins embark on an offseason that figures to include significant changes, coach Dan Bylsma insists the goalie position won’t be one of them.

Bylsma called Marc-Andre Fleury “a franchise goalie ... this franchise’s goalie” on Sunday, one month to the day after Tomas Vokoun made his Penguins postseason debut in place of Fleury as Pittsburgh’s starter.

Fleury started every playoff game the Penguins played since being taken with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2003 until Bylsma opted to go with Vokoun for Game 5 of a first-round series against the New York Islanders. Fleury played just 43 minutes the remainder of the playoffs, fueling speculation he might be traded or bought out of his contract this summer.

Not so, Bylsma said Sunday.

“Marc-Andre Fleury, I’m not sure the definition of ‘franchise goalie,’ (but) he’s our No. 1 goalie,” Bylsma said two days after the Boston Bruins completed a stunning sweep of the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. “He’s a No. 1 goalie for this franchise and he will be going forward.

“We were in a situation where Tomas Vokoun went into net and won the third and fourth games of a series for us and continued to play in our net. But Marc-Andre Fleury is a guy who’s going to come back to our team and he’s going to be the No. 1 goalie. He’s going to be the franchise goalie. He’s going to be this franchise’s goalie.”

The 28-year-old Fleury has two years and $10 million left on a seven-year contract extension he signed with Pittsburgh after leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008.

He backstopped them to the Stanley Cup title a year later, going a combined 30-14 with a 2.31 goals-against average and .920 save percentage over those two postseason runs.

Since, though, it’s been a much different story. Over the past four postseasons, Fleury is 14-16. He hasn’t posted a save percentage of .900 or better or a goals-against average of 2.50 or better in a playoff year since.

Last year, in a first-round series defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers, Fleury allowed 26 goals in six games.

He gave up 17 in the equivalent of less than five full games this season – including 14 in a three-game stretch before losing his job.

“I didn’t change anything from Game 1 when I had a shutout to Game 2 when I had four goals against,” Fleury said Sunday. “I don’t think there was a technical problem; I think there were a few bad bounces, hit a skate, there was something every game that went in – and then it’s a four-goal game instead of a two-goal game, and that made everything worse.

“Sometimes you start thinking a little more. You want to win and you want to do good for your team. It’s disappointing at the end of the night those four are in the net.”

Vokoun turns 37 in three weeks, so he was never going to be the long-term answer in net for the Penguins. Still, there has been widespread speculation general manager Ray Shero would trade Fleury this offseason to allow Vokoun to be the unquestioned No. 1 in 2013-14.

Another option is a compliance buyout, a mechanism under the new collective bargaining agreement that allows teams to pay a player two-thirds of his remaining salary to remove his salary-cap hit from the ledger. Teams are given up to two of these buyouts to use either this offseason or in 2014.

“I like it a lot here and don’t want to go anywhere else,” Fleury said. “I like the guys in the room here, and feel every year we have a chance at the Stanley Cup. So I’m hoping I can be back.”

That sentiment was echoed by several Penguins during their final appearance as a group. Pittsburgh’s roster includes seven unrestricted and three restricted free agents, plus 12 players about to enter the final year of their contracts. Only five players are signed beyond next season.

“Management and the coaching staff, they’re going to have to make some decisions, we all know that,” defenseman Kris Letang said.

Letang said “of course” he wants to sign an extension with the team that drafted him in 2005 and with whom he blossomed into a Norris Trophy finalist this season. But an inconsistent postseason has left his future in doubt. He and reigning NHL MVP Evgeni Malkin each are entering the final year of contracts and are due extensions.

“I want to be here,” Letang said. “From hearing all the other players, this is the best organization in the league.”

Winger Pascal Dupuis acknowledged he took a so-called “hometown discount” to stay with the Penguins the previous time his contract expired. A pending unrestricted free agent, he said Sunday he wants to stay.

Trade-deadline “rental player” acquisitions Brenden Morrow, Jarome Iginla and Douglas Murray also expressed a desire to re-sign with Pittsburgh, as did restricted free-agent-to-be winger Tyler Kennedy.

“For a guy who hadn’t been to the playoffs in five years to get back there, and knowing that the players they have coming back next year they’re probably going to have the same opportunity they had this year,” Morrow said, “they’re going to be a heck of a team for a long time.”

Bylsma said Sunday he has not yet discussed his future with Shero. Bylsma led the Penguins to the best record in the Eastern Conference this season (36-12), but has been at the helm during playoff losses to lower-seeded teams four consecutive years since guiding the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2009.

Captain Sidney Crosby was one of many players supporting the coach, saying “we were well-prepared” and “we appreciate everything our coaches do for us.”

But even Crosby acknowledged that change of some sort is inevitable on the heels of a two-goals-in-four-games performance by the high-flying Penguins in a conference final sweep.

“You know what, there’s a lot of things that can happen when you don’t meet the expectations,” Crosby said. “And they’re pretty high for us. But I don’t think there’s anything (the coaches) could have done differently. We were put in a situation to be successful.”

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Pro
  • Pirates 0417 Pirates power past Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
    Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0417 Jackets preparing for Game 2

    The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    “It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • racin 0416 Jennerstown Speedway gearing for May open

    Jennerstown Speedway released a very ambitious schedule on its website and continues to prepare for its 2014 reopening.
    The track is set to hold a practice day for drivers as well as an open house and media day on April 26.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0416 Dominant Cueto drops Pirates in matinee

    That playoff loss in Pittsburgh last year? Johnny Cueto never thought about it much. So getting a chance to shut out the Pirates in a rematch wasn’t any more special.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0416 Penguins rally to wear out Jackets

    Brandon Sutter scored on a wrist shot from the left circle 8:18 into the third period, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins rally for a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
    Beau Bennett and Matt Niskanen scored power-play goals 45 seconds apart in the second period, erasing Pittsburgh’s two-goal deficit.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shelley and McElligot Series serves as reunion for former Chiefs personnel

    Not so long ago, Bob McElligott, like most Western Pennsylvania hockey fans, would savor a long Pittsburgh Penguins playoff run.
    The Somerset native followed the Pens’ Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malkin nearing return

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are the closest NHL team to the Pittsburgh Penguins, at least geographically. The two franchises are separated by 185 miles of highway.

    April 15, 2014

  • Reds swing way past Pirates

    Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole's winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
    First, the NL Central rivals completed a game that was suspended in the sixth inning because of rain the previous night.

    April 15, 2014

  • Pirates Game 1 0415 Pirates edge out Reds in suspended game

    After all those home runs and an overnight delay, it was settled by a single.
    Andrew McCutchen doubled and came around on Russell Martin’s single in the seventh inning on Tuesday, giving the Pittsburgh Pirates an 8-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the completion of a game that spanned two days and 10 home runs.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0414 Pressure on Penguins to capture Cup

    The statistics are gaudy.
    And if the Pittsburgh Penguins can’t find a way to extend their season into the final days of spring, ultimately forgettable.
    The same team that led the NHL in man games lost due to injury (more than 500) also earned 109 points, led the Metropolitan Division from mid-October on and received another peerless effort from star Sidney Crosby, who topped the league with 104 points and is a near lock for the second MVP award of his career.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads