Tuesdays With Stoosh: 11:02

By now you know that Jordan Staal broke his hand in practice. Six weeks thanks to surgery.

And by "surgery", we mean a quick trip back to the sod farm so Hank Staal can duct-tape the bones back together. Throw in a good home-cooked meal or three and spend the week kicking back in Thunder Bay. No hassles. No unnecessary interview requests from Rossi or Molinari.

Next Monday morning, head back to Pittsburgh just as the guys are back from the road trip. Hang out at Consol and watch practice on Monday from the stands with Shero and Mario, making it three more people than the team played in front of in Phoenix.

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Resume skating by the end of next week. Get a few practices in after the team gets back from Atlanta. Rip off the duct tape the day after the Canucks game, and back in action the next night when Big Brother comes to town with Carolina.

Six weeks. Psssh.

 

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

Heyyyyyyyyyy fannnnnnnnnns! Viking metal!

Korpiklaani – Wooden Pints

1:14 mark. Dude has worse teeth than Ovechkin. And no words adequately describe the violin guy at the beginning.

 

Back at it…

Fleury vs. Brentjohnson. Brentjohnson vs. Fleury. Finkle. Einhorn. Einhorn. FInkle.

OK, here's the deal.

Everyone first take a deep breath. In fact, Mr. Marley, please set the tone.

Very cool. Pour yourself a drink. Light up a Marlboro or a stogie or perhaps some other illicit substance that may float your boat.

Sit back. Relax.

This isn't going to be some blanket statement saying not to worry. The Pens do have some issues and the team needs to get these things figured out, the sooner the better.

But the 2010-11 hockey season isn't even a month old. There are still like 70 games to play. The Pens find themselves battling with the Crosschecking Brieres for first in the Atlantic. The team took 13 of a possible 24 standings points to open the season, which isn't bad considering the injuries to key personnel and flat play on some nights. And they're fresh off a solid 3-0 shutout win in Carolina.

Yet despite this, a goaltending civil war breaks out in the fan base after every game, at least if Twitter, C-blog and the post-game shows are any indication of the voices of the fan base. When Fleury loses, there's a stampede to blame him (in some instances, deserved). Hell, even when Brent Johnson wins, there are the obligatory "no way we win that game with Fleury in net" calls or posts.

Huh? Why go there? Why not just enjoy the win?

Conversely, even after he wins, there are still the calls or posts that seem are more concerned with establishing this goaltending thing RIGHT NOW.

Start Johnson. Bench Fleury. Fleury needs to play or he'll never get better. Johnson could be the starter. Trade Fleury for a winger. Johnson can't lead the team in the playoffs.

Whoa.

It's November, November 2nd in fact.

Look, any team with Crosby, Malkin, (a healthy) Jordan Staal and this defensive corps shouldn't have much trouble making the playoffs. Granted, you don't want losses to pile up now, but even if you go through a bad stretch of four or five games, you've still got five and a half months to make it up. And really, it's going to take a lot more than an epic fail in between the pipes for this team to not make the postseason.

That said, there's no real rush to figure this all out and establish a primary guy for the playoffs RIGHT NOW.

I don't see the issue that's being made with this.

Yes, the Pens are paying Fleury to be their franchise goalie and yes, he hasn't played like a franchise goalie to this point this year. That would be more of a concern if it was February or March. It's November. He's got time to get his game back.

This is a guy who showed in 2007-08 and 2008-09 that he is capable of playing at a very high level. While past performance or Cups won isn't justification alone to throw him back in there in the face of the way Johnson's playing, it should be enough to keep the fanbase off his back more than it's been. Fleury has earned at least that much. Johnson having success should not need to be a reason to drive Fleury out of town.

Let's be honest here, too, about the way the team has played in front of Fleury. Three of Fleury's losses this year came in games that most agree were the Pens' worst team efforts – the season opener to Philly, the home loss to Toronto about a week later, and then the loss at Tampa. In each instance, the Pens never got to "their game", coming out flat against Philly and Toronto. In the Tampa game, they played one great period and then went into a shell for the rest of the game. Fleury didn't help, but it's tough to pin each loss exclusively on him when the team around him gets into "cute" mode or comes out flat.

Fleury showed some good signs in the last game against the Flyers – elements of that game we saw in the 2008-09 playoffs came back, making some bigtime saves. He seemed to be seeing the puck a little better, too. It was probably his best total effort outside of the win at Nashville and even the home loss to Montreal, so it's progress.

Brent Johnson is winning and he's playing at an unbelievable level, and that deserves to be recognized. This is a luxury, a tremendous luxury for a Pens team battling injuries to key players. Most teams just hope to get 15 nights when they can throw their backup goalie out there and have him play well enough to just the primary goalie the night off. Maybe you lose. Just don't get shelled.

Maybe I'm just scarred by the Dany Sabourin experiment, but most teams don't get this kind of play out of their backups. But then again, Johnson did this same sort of thing two years ago in Washington. So as long as he's playing like this, it probably makes the most sense to keep playing him until he has a bad night or two, which is bound to happen. Again, it's a long season. Guys get tired. Guys have bad games, no matter how good they are. If Beej strings together a bad game or two, or if he tires out, Fleury goes back in and plays until he struggles.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Bolster with secondary scoring like we saw against Carolina.

And hopefully just enjoy the wins.

 

FINAL NOTE

If you happen to see Papa Stoosh galavanting around Erie, PA, today, wish him a happy birthday.

Happy birthday, Dad!

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