Tomas Vokoun gets the start in goal tonight for the Penguins which will mark his 15th start of the season and 18th game he will appear in. The Penguins came into the season believing that Marc Andre Fleury’s struggles in the post-season the past three years have been due to him being overworked in the regular season.
That prompted head coach Dan Bylsma and his staff to go into the shortened season with the plan of Fleury playing in around 30 to 32 games and Vokoun appearing in 18 to 20 games.
Both goaltenders figure to finish the season right around those marks as Bylsma hasn’t gone away from that plan.
With eight games to go, Fleury has made 26 starts and appeared in 28 games and figures to finish the season with around 30, 31 starts.
During the lockout this fall and winter, the Penguins studied the 1995 shortened season extensively, especially when it came to the use of goaltenders.
“Goaltenders was the biggest one,” Bylsma said in January of what he studied regarding the 1995 shortened season. “Use of the goaltending and how often other goaltenders played. Success of teams that made playoffs, huge portions of them had two of their goaltenders who played up to 20 games. A lot of teams that had success and got into playoffs, had backup goalies who played 20 hockey games.”
Bylsma’s view of teams having a backup goalie play around 20 games is holding true from a winning standpoint for at least the Penguins as the team will earn a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
But, has the lighter workload for Marc Andre Fleury had any effect on him? We won’t know that answer until the playoffs.
Fleury has always posted strong numbers in the regular season regardless of whether he has a heavy or light workload. In 2010-2011, Fleury appeared in 65 games, going 36-20-5 with a 2.32 GAA and .918 save percentage. In 2011-2012, Fleury appeared in 67 games going 47-17-2 with a 2.36 GAA and .913 save percentage.
Fleury’s numbers this season are 20-6-0 with a 2.31 GAA and .917 save percentage. He remains in that .230 – 2.36 GAA and .913 – .918 save percentage neighborhood he has been in the previous two seasons.
Fleury has always been a good regular season goaltender so the Penguins argument that a lighter workload will lead to better play in the post-season will either come true or not in the coming months as the player with the most pressure this post-season will be Fleury.