Game 5 of a seven game series that's tied 2 games to 2 is obviously a very important game. Many times it'll determine who's moving on, since the loser of G5 has no cushion for failure and would have to win two straight games. For the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team that finished in first place in the division and has intentions of making deep playoff runs every year, it's the most critical game of the year to this point.
Which means, especially in light of the reason that we're at 2-2, the attention all turns to how Marc-Andre Fleury will do. He's been great this season and aside from a couple bad rebound goals in Goal 3 and the ill-advised attempt to play the puck in Game 4 (and soft OT goal), Fleury's given the Pens chances to win. He's carried his weight but the most important games are still to come. Namely, it's Saturday night.
Will Fleury's Penguin career, which began being drafted 1st overall back in 2003 boil down to his performance in Game 5? Justin Bourne from The Score thinks so:
But here we are in April again and Fleury has allowed 14 goals over four games (3.5 per, .903 save percentage), and the 109 point Penguins once again sit tied two games apiece with a first round underdog. With all due respect to Jeff Zatkoff (20 NHL games), he isn't Tomas Vokoun, and the game-tying goal and game winner in Game 4 were the type of goals that probably make the Penguins wish he was.
Saturday night is the perfect time to let him find himself again. With two days off before the next game, both teams come in rested - generally an advantage for the more talented team. They're back in Pittsburgh and sure to be hungry after a crushing defeat.
Playing behind a skilled, desperate, rested team is the perfect situation for a goaltender in Fleury's position - he doesn't have to steal the game, and even if he doesn't play his best he can still sneak out looking okay. Dropping back-up Jeff Zatkoff into this plum situation sets him up for that boost. Guess who you're locked into for the remainder of playoffs after that?
If Fleury is put in another position to succeed and fails, it's over. His time in black-and-gold will be over, and it will be the start of a new era in Pittsburgh. In the meantime, I say give him that one more start. The tainted seed of failure has been planted, but The Flower deserves one more chance to bloom.
It's dramatic, but potentially right on the money. The Pens can't keep going down a road with a $5 million goalie who can't give at least league average goaltending. Fleury gets put in bad spots by his defense sometimes, but it's his job to keep it out of the net and give the team a chance to win. We'll see if he has it in him to do it one more time.
If he doesn't, it might be time to more than just consider addressing some changes in the off-season this year.