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Concern over panic is key for the Penguins right now

The Penguins/Islanders series is tied 2 games to 2, though you'd be hard-pressed to guess that given the way the tide has turned against the Penguins lately. It's OK to be concerned now.

Bruce Bennett

For the Penguins right now, it should be concern over panic.

Concern that their best-laid plans have fallen apart. Marc-Andre Fleury has again melted down in the playoffs, his confidence shot and current difficulty with stopping a puck from going in the net ranking somewhere along the lines of Penguins’ fans frustration about it. Which, obviously, is to say high.

Concern that Mark Eaton, the stabilizing veteran defensive presence who helped the Pens to a 20-3-0 record when he was in the lineup this season, might be losing his magic. Eaton was on the ice for four of the Isles six goals, and two of the four from Sunday as well.

And more than anything, concern about making poor decisions and not paying the price to win. It’s Tanner Glass not getting a piece of a point shot on the game’s first goal, or Evgeni Malkin deciding to play the puck through the middle of the ice when it sure looked like he had a lane to play it up the wall in a safer way. It’s blind passes through the middle of the ice instead of playing the puck deep. And it’s on virtually every player’s shoulders, you could probably find an example of each and every player in the lineup making a poor decision or failing to execute as they should.

The New York Islanders have made a series out of this by skating to loose pucks, working hard and believing in themselves. They’re throwing pucks on net, because they’re having success. And they’re getting in good position to intercept Penguin efforts and using quick transitions to make it happen.

Read that last paragraph again and wonder did I copy+paste it from April 2012, last year’s series against the Flyers? The answer is no, but I really could have. It’s the same problems and the same frustrating lack of a solution for Coach Dan Bylsma and the troops.

The popular choice now is to go to 37 year old backup goalie Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun had a decent regular season, but it wasn’t without troubles of his own (remember that time he gave up his 6th goal of the game on a shot from behind the net against the Flyers?). Still, it’s hard to disagree with anything in Dejan Kovacevic’s column in the Trib today. The Penguins HAVE to turn to Vokoun, because if they don’t, nothing will change. Watching these past two series is enough to know that.

Vokoun might not work, and it might not be a permanent change, but at this point, he has to be played. Fleury has no confidence and he isn’t giving the team a chance to win right now. That’s why you go out and get a capable backup goalie. The Penguins need to give themselves the best chance to win.

The series is 2-2, after all. Even though there is good reason for panic among the faithful, for the guys that actually control the outcome of the series, they’re exactly where they deserve to be. And it’s not too late. There’s no doubt they should be concerned, but the time to do something about it is tomorrow night in Game 5.