After last year's debacle, the Pens organization made a concerted effort all season to have Marc-Andre Fleury well-rested and ready to go for the pressure-cooker of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And he's doing it again.
Since the 2009 Cup win, Fleury has been complete and utter ass in the playoffs. Given his status of being a number-one overall draft pick, he has the greatest of expectations weighing down on his shoulders. It doesn't seem to be too much of a problem in the regular season, but when it comes to the playoffs, he isn't even playing like an average goaltender, let alone above-average. That's the problem. Yeah, he's nice and smiles and is friendly but the buddy-buddy feel the Pens' organization tries to foster makes it impossible for a lot of people to face the facts that Fleury is playing like dogfuck.
And fuck this game, too. All that was missing was Billy Joel driving his car onto the ice.
The series is now coming back to Pittsburgh tied up at 2-2. Read that again. This series is tied at 2 games apiece, and Game 5 is being played on home ice. The Pens are extremely lucky to be in this position, and it means it's not too late to right the ship.
The course correction begins with putting Tomas Vokoun in net for Game 5. Vokoun was brought in as insurance for if and when MAF had another playoff implosion. You'd have to be blind not to see the implosion is happening again. The players have lost confidence in MAF, a lot of fans have lost confidence in MAF, and MAF himself is in a dark, dark place right now.
This isn't the time for inspiring "Fleury, Fleury" chants when the lights go down before Game 5.
The Penguins need whichever goalie plays in Game 5 to stop an average shot.
Okay, now we can get to the rest of the team. In Game 4, the Pens were betrayed by some of their biggest stars. Evgeni Malkin played a great 30 minutes then proceeded to play some of the worst hockey of his career. His turnover leading to the Islanders' game-winning goal could follow him around for quite some time if the Pens don't somehow escape this series.
And Kris Letang. Dear God. On the same day he was nominated as a finalist for the Norris Trophy he attacked a linesman at one point. We'd usually write something like that in exaggeration, but he actually. cross-checked. a. linesman.
Like, it's hard to believe this actually happened. He looked at the linesman for a solid second and decided it was time to crosscheck the guy in the kidney. But, shit, guess we all have to take the good with the bad with Letang.
On the bright side, the Pens were able to hang with the Islanders stride for stride in this one. If the Isles had anything resembling a netminder, this series is probably over by now. John Tavares and Kyle Okposo have been spectacular.
The wounds from last season have been reopened. Last year, we took the tact of being rah-rah about the Pens coming back from a 3-0 series deficit and resigning ourselves to the fact that it was just a fluke series. This season, we're taking a completely opposite angle and throwing shit everywhere, not caring who it hits. There's a middle ground somewhere.
It's all a total nightmare again.