As the first round of the playoffs is raining down in all its glory, it has been apparent that the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury still has not shook his playoff jitters. This was most recently displayed in textbook fashion during Game 4. With 22 seconds left in the third period, Fleury failed to play the puck behind the net. Ryan Johansen easily corralled the puck and threw it out front to Brandon Dubinsky, who easily buried it. What the goaltender was doing behind the net with only 22 seconds left will be left for you to speculate on. Following this meltdown, early in OT Fleury had his usual difficulties when Bluejackets’ Forward Nick Foligno let a shot go from the blueline that beat Fleury’s glove, and cost Pittsburgh the game.
With Fleury still making mistakes like these at crucial points in important playoff games, it can be said, Fleury has to go. Regardless of the outcome of these playoffs, a change must be made in the Penguins’ net. Fleury has been good for the franchise up to here. Penguins fans have watched him mature and peak as a goalie, and subsequently plummet since their Stanley Cup. Since 2009, the Penguins have wound up disappointed after frustrating playoff losses, not making it past the Conference Finals in any of the postseason contests. Leading this slump, Marc-Andre Fleury has been at the center of the disappointment with his 3.17 Playoff GAA since 2009-2010.
So now, with great regret, Pens fans must look somewhere else for a goaltending solution. Rumors of Martin Brodeur and Ryan Miller becoming a Pen have been thrown around. But with Martin Brodeur being old, and with Ryan Miller having a successful opening series with the Blues the remaining high-profile goaltender that may be a good multi-year fit with the Pens is none other than Roberto Luongo. Getting in to the details, we think this makes perfect sense. Why? I’ll highlight three points.
First, self-confidence. The Penguins need a goaltender that is bigger than his ego. Luongo is just this. Luongo has performed in big games (for the Canucks and Team Canada) in playoff runs and in the Olympics. Being a part of the Canucks playing in a Canadian hockey market, Luongo was exposed to more fan induced pressure than he could ever expect to see in Pittsburgh. Also, with the Penguins’ current frustration in their playoff goaltending performance, Luongo will be welcomed with open arms. Heck, any change in net would be welcomed at this point.
Second, familiarity with the Pens’ leadership. The last two Winter Olympic Tournaments has seen Luongo on the roster for Team Canada. Of course, Penguins Captain Sidney has played a pivotal part of both the 2010 and 2014 rosters. And in 2014, Crosby was joined by fellow henchman Chris Kunitz. So with some of the Pens’ leaders having played and practiced with Luongo he has gained some familiarity with the way the Pens operate on and off the ice. This is key in making the transition for Luongo smooth. Then again, any trade will seem smooth when the guy coming to your team gets to play with Sidney Crosby.
Last, Luongo’s desire to win big would make him a perfect fit with the Pens. To this day, Luongo has not won a Stanley Cup. Some may view this as a bad thing. It is actually good. From the Penguins’ 2009 Stanley Cup roster, 17 players have since departed. Even though the roster has changed a bit, the core is still present. And this core might be getting a bit too comfortable with their current situation. In this season’s playoffs the eight players that were on the roster in 2009 have scored only two goals and totaled 10 assists in four games, while flatlining to a plus-minus of -7. These stats are abysmal, and without directly changing those who are to blame for the lack of offense, bringing Luongo in would add a high-profile player to the locker room who still has the desire to win his first Cup. And if he’s serious about winning, it could be enough to give the rest of the team the “shot in the arm” it needs.