PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins return home tonight for Game 5 of their opening round series against the New York Islanders.
On Tuesday, the Penguins squandered two, one-goal leads en route to a 6-4 loss, which evened the best-of-seven series up 2-2.
With many pointing the finger at Marc-Andre Fleury, head coach Dan Bylsma elected to make a change in goal for Game 5.
Tomas Vokoun will be in goal when the puck drops tonight at CONSOL Energy Center. This was the exact reasoning for going out and getting a proven goaltender in the NHL to be a backup this season. If Fleury faltered, the Penguins would have someone to fall back on.
In fact, while you certainly cannot pin the Penguins’ struggles in this series solely on Fleury, the switch to Vokoun is the right move.
If anything, by putting Vokoun in net, you send a message to the team that they are partly responsible for the switch as well and that they should go out and win to make it up to Fleury.
Think of it as more of a rallying point.
However, the numbers back up the decision to make the switch as well.
In the regular season series, Vokoun was 3-0 with a 0.90 GAA and .970 save percentage in four appearances against the Islanders.
For his career, Vokoun is 17-7-1 with a 1.95 GAA and a .937 save percentage with five shutouts against the Islanders.
After shutting the Islanders out in Game 1, Fleury has allowed 14 goals over the last three games. Two of the six he allowed in Tuesday’s 6-4 loss were especially scrutinized.
As for the Islanders, they are gaining confidence. They’ve been able to control 5-on-5 play for much of the last three games and if not for some penalty trouble in Game 3, this could very easily be 3-1 in their favor.
Their forecheck has been great and their offensive zone strategy is pretty simple. It’s almost as if they treat every offensive zone possession like an overtime situation where you just throw everything at the net.
When a goaltender is struggling, that’s probably not a bad idea and the Penguins would be wise to mimic that strategy.
Evgeni Nabokov has not looked like himself in net this series either. Through the first four games, Nabokov has allowed 16 goals on 104 shots. That equates out to a 4.56 GAA and a .846 save percentage.
Yet, he’s come up with key saves to keep his team in the game.
3 Keys To Victory
1. Pick Up The Physicality
The Penguins need to do a better job of getting the puck deep and punishing any Islander who touches the puck. The Penguins may not be as fast as the Islanders, but they can easily combat the speed with physical play.
2. Maintain Composure
This is more geared toward Evgeni Malkin at this point, but it should still be said to the rest of the team. Be physical, but do it legally. If you get hit, don’t retaliate. The Penguins cannot afford to give the Islanders free power play chances.
3. Protect Vokoun
The Penguins failed to provide any help for Fleury for the last three games. If they continue that trend, it won’t matter which goalie is in net. Vokoun is a more than capable goaltender, but even the best are not going to fare well when the team is turning the puck over relentlessly in front of them.
The puck is set to drop at 7 p.m. and you can watch the game on Root Sports.
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