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Battle Between the Pipes - Pittsburgh's Goalie Controversy Continues


The Battle Between the Pipes - the goalie controversy in Pittsburgh continues.

And yet - it's good controversy; if such a thing can exist.

Many teams are faced with picking a starter who poses as "the lesser of two evils."  That may have been the case earlier in the season when Marc-Andre Fleury was searching for some comfort in his game, but that is definitely not the case now.

While working on his game with the Baby Pens following his December 6 injury, Fleury posted a 3-2-0 record in his five rehab starts.  While that may almost appear just slightly over .500 (which is true) that record does not tell you that his only losses came in two 1-0 games.  When you factor in an offensive unit like the Penguins, allowing one goal almost seems acceptable.

Since coming back from his rehabilitation play in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, MAF has posted a 2-0-0 record including a shutout.  82 of the 86 shots faced have been red light stoppers and Coach Therrien couldn't be happier.

"He looks really sharp.  It's great news.  We know that Ty is hungry to play. Marc-Andre has to make sure that he keeps playing well."

Michel Therrien - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Coach Therrien, hardly known for his endless words of encouragement, has instead been known to be a strict coach in high demand of performance for reward.  Yet it's not to say he isn't behind his team.  Even Ryan Whitney, who has from time to time been playing below expectations, calls Therrien's way of mingling with the media "tough love."  

Which makes one wonder - is he public discussion of the goaltending situation creating a healthy rivalry?  It would sure seem that way.  In a sport - nay, a position where performance speaks louder than salary, Ty Conklin and Marc-Andre Fleury are providing some of the finest goaltending competition as can be seen throughout the league.

""Ty was playing well and we stuck with Ty.  But he slipped away. We gave the opportunity to Fleury, and he took his chance. That's inside competition.  There is inside competition with the goalies. They know if they don't perform, somebody is going to pick up the spot. That's a little bit of competition I don't mind. Actually, I like it. "

Michel Therrien - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Bingo.  That's competition you can live with.

While Ty Conklin has dropped two consecutive starts and allowed eight goal on 43 shots, he is nowhere near the end of his quest for goaltending domination in Pittsburgh.  Keep in mind this is a competent goaltender, as evidenced in his ten consecutive wins through December and January.  Perhaps all he needs is some more of the Therrien brand "tough love."

As the battle rages on for King of the Pipes, it may be safe to say Marc-Andre will get the nod against the Panthers.  This, although not officially announced, can seem more than obvious since Therrien has a history of starting his winning goaltenders (never mind his shutout producing ones).  On the contrary, Therrien may also not be in the market for overworking Fleury's sensitive ankle just yet.  Conklin has tended net three times against the Florida Cats this year and in turn posted a 3-0 record, including one shutout.

This is definitely the sort of tough decision Therrien would like to be faced with.