October 18, 2010
"You want to ride the hot hand, and Johnny's hot right now."
Penguins Head Coach Dan Bylsma, Oct. 18, 2010?
Jose Theodore(notes) had been signed by the Washington Capitals as a replacement for Cristobal Huet(notes), but struggled out of the gate. By the Caps' 31st game, Theodore had a GAA of 3.08 and a .888 save percentage in 16 starts; and Johnson had a 2.47 GAA, a .918 save percentage and a better overall record.
Whether you personally believe there is now a goalie controversy in Penguinland, one thing's for sure: Marc-Andre Fleury's status as the Penguins' starting goaltender is under the most scrutiny of his NHL career. Reasons can be offered as to why Fleury is 0-3 with a 3.41 GAA and a .853 save pct., while "backup" Brent Johnson is 3-0 with a 1.32 GAA and a .953% save pct.. But the bottom line is that, for right now at least, when Fleury has been between the pipes, the Penguins aren't winning, and when Johnson is, they win. It's that simple. I don't think HCDB has any choice but to keep putting Johnson in there for Monday's home game vs. Ottawa, he's playing that well.
Johnson will get the start against Brian Elliott(notes) for the Penguins at home tonight, in a game that marks the return of Sergei Gonchar(notes) to the Steel City and features a playoff rematch. Are we starting to see Johnson show he's a keeper who will share more starts with Fleury than expected? Or is this Dan Bylsma just playing the hot hand, as Boudreau did two years ago with "Johnny"? From the Post Gazette:
Even though Fleury will be the one Bylsma and his teammates will look to when the games matter most -- the reality is that the Penguins don't have the luxury of continuing to sputter the way they did during the first week of the season, and lackluster goaltending was a big part of that.
That doesn't mean Johnson, who was solid in his first start of the season last Monday in New Jersey, should be given the top job, even on an interim basis. However, it is in the best interest of the team -- and perhaps even of Fleury's future -- that in the short term, both goalies be given work, and that the one who performs best be given the majority of starts over the next few weeks.
If it turns out to be a temp job for Johnson -- and keep in mind his injury history -- it wouldn't be the first time this has happened to Fleury. Seth from Empty Netters points out:
In November of 2008, former coach Michel Therrien gave back-up Dany Sabourin(notes) several starts when he felt Fleury was floundering. Eventually, Fleury reclaimed the starting job if we recall correctly, things turned out fine when that season was over.
It's still somewhat incredible to think that even after that season, with a ring on his finger, Fleury still has to prove himself every new campaign.