PITTSBURGH — As the Pittsburgh Penguins embark on an off-season that figures to include significant changes, coach Dan Bylsma insists the goalie position won’t be one of them.
Bylsma called Marc-Andre Fleury “a franchise goalie . . . this franchise’s goalie” on Sunday, one month to the day after Tomas Vokoun made his Penguins post-season debut in place of Fleury as Pittsburgh’s starter.
Fleury started every playoff game the Penguins played since being taken with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2003 until Bylsma opted to go with Vokoun for Game 5 of a first-round series against the New York Islanders. Fleury played just 43 minutes the remainder of the playoffs, fueling speculation he might be traded or bought out of his contract this summer.
Not so, Bylsma said Sunday.
“Marc-Andre Fleury, I’m not sure the definition of ’franchise goalie,’ (but) he’s our No. 1 goalie,” Bylsma said two days after the Boston Bruins completed a stunning sweep of the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. “He’s a No. 1 goalie for this franchise and he will be going forward.
“We were in a situation where Tomas Vokoun went into net and won the third and fourth games of a series for us and continued to play in our net. But Marc-Andre Fleury is a guy who’s going to come back to our team and he’s going to be the No. 1 goalie. He’s going to be the franchise goalie. He’s going to be this franchise’s goalie.”
The 28-year-old Fleury has two years and $10 million left on a seven-year contract extension he signed with Pittsburgh after leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008.
He backstopped them to the Stanley Cup title a year later, going a combined 30-14 with a 2.31 goals-against average and .920 save percentage over those two post-season runs.
Since, though, it’s been a much different story. Over the past four postseasons, Fleury is 14-16. He hasn’t posted a save percentage of .900 or better or a goals-against average of 2.50 or better in a playoff year since.
Last year, in a first-round series defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers, Fleury allowed 26 goals in six games. He gave up 17 in the equivalent of less than five full games this season — including 14 in a three-game stretch before losing his job.
“I didn’t change anything from Game 1 when I had a shutout to Game 2 when I had four goals against,” Fleury said Sunday. “I don’t think there was a technical problem; I think there were a few bad bounces, hit a skate, there was something every game that went in — and then it’s a four-goal game instead of a two-goal game, and that made everything worse.
“Sometimes you start thinking a little more. You want to win and you want to do good for your team. It’s disappointing at the end of the night those four are in the net.”