Friday, February 03, 2006

In The Line Of Fire

When you look at the Pittsburgh Penguins, you can't help by feel bad for the young talent on the team. Of course, Sidney Crosby will be fine and probably take this as a learning experience, but there's another First Overall Draft Pick on that Penguins that this whole season could actually scar and almost shell-shock, which could stifle an otherwise promising career.

Personally, I can't help but feel sorry for Marc-Andre Fleury, the promising young goalie for the Pens, who has really had to suffer because of the lack of defense that the Penguins have. After having a rough go about his first NHL stint where he went 4-14-2 in 22 appearances; MAF pretty much was sent down, first back to his QMJHL squad in Cape Breton, then to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, to pretty much retool his playing ability. Of course, in both instances MAF did fairly well and came out with an 8-1-1 record in Cape Breton and a combined 36-21-4 record in a season and some extra games with WBS. After seeing this and realizing that throwing their money down the toilet would have been a little bit more useful than actually signing Jocelyn Thibault, the Pens called up MAF on what could prove to be another "fun" journey for the 21-year-old goalie.

Though his record, 6-18-3, doesn't really reflect it; Fleury has given Pittsburgh enough chances in net to win, but the Pens rarely capitalize on those chances given to them. With his .900 save percentage and 3.23 GAA, he could actually be a quality goalie, if he were to get some goal support for him. In his 29 appearances, Fleury has gotten just under 2.5 goal per game from his own team. This includes eleven times that the Pens score one goal or less and only three times that they have score over five goals. With support like that, who needs another team to pelt you with just about 31 shots a game. To his credit though, I think Fleury is just happy to know he has a spot on the Penguins for now.

When he was first drafted, Fleury was smiling from ear-to-ear, but you know when he saw how deep he'd be in it when it came to the team in front of him, I'm sure that smile diminished pretty quickly. But, it's no fault to Fleury. He could still be considered one of the best goalie prospects out there, but he has no support on defense. Fleury is making the best of a horrible situation. Had the Penguins actually addressed their defensive woes (and I don't mean picking up Sergei Gonchar who is a winger trapped in a defenseman's body), then they probably wouldn't have the issues the are having. Of course, that could also mean that Fleury would still be in the AHL, but that wouldn't be really bad when you think about it. At least he would gain confidence by winning night-in and night-out.

However, much like Josh Harding in the Minnesota organization, there was only so long you could hold back Fleury. He has all the talent in the world, but it seems to be going to waste in the Steel City.

Should the Penguins get the first pick or a top-5 pick, the focus shouldn't be on offense anymore. They have enough fire power to take over a small European Nation-- you hear that Luxembourg?? Instead, the Pens really should look at some of the top defensive talent out there. With blue chippers like Erik Johnson, Bobby Sanguinetti, Yuri Alexandrov, and Ty Wishart, the Pens have a bevy of options to choose from in growing the defense and make sure that they won't have to worry about it in the future.

Plus, giving a little help out to MAF for when he takes over the Pens goaltending duties....more so....wouldn't be a bad thing either. The Penguins have a bright future with their young talent. Now, whether it'll be in Pittsburgh or even with the Penguins namesake is yet to be seen, but they'll be good when all their youngster mature and play as one cohesive unit.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

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