Last season the Pittsburgh Penguins brought in veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun to help starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who struggled in the 2012 NHL Playoffs. Fleury proved to still be the starting goalie for the majority of the 2013 NHL season until the playoffs.
Vokoun became hot in the playoffs, starting 11 games and only allowing a 2.01 goals-against average. When it came to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins, both goalies could not get the job done and another promising year ended.
This offseason has seen a dramatic change for the position between the pipes. The Penguins re-signed 24-year-old Quinnipiac standout goalie, Eric Hartzell, to provide some competition for Vokoun and Fleury. Hartzell was selected to the 2012-2013 NCAA (East) First All-American team as well as a finalist for the “Hobey Baker Award” for the NCAA top collegiate athlete. For the 2012-2013 season Hartzell had a stingy 1.57 goals-against average, recorded five shutouts and had a save percentage of .937 last season.
In addition, the Penguins moved up in the 2013 NHL entry draft to get 18-year-old Tristan Jarry. During the 2012-2013 WHL season, Jarry tied for second-most shutouts despite sharing the starting goaltender role. Jarry probably won’t be ready to play in Pittsburgh for a couple of years, however for the Penguins the future looks promising especially due to Jarry flourishing in the development camp this offseason.
One of the biggest storylines from the Penguins is when the team decided to send Fleury to a sports psychologist for his struggles in the postseason. Fleury has proven to be an elite goalie during the season. When the time comes in the playoffs, he has seemed shaky and unstable.
Most recently, the Penguins have brought in a new goaltending coach. Mike Bales had been promoted to head Penguins goaltending coach after former coach Gilles Meloche stepped down at the end of the postseason to spend more time with this family.
Head coach Dan Byslma told the Pittsburgh Tribune, “He’s a student of the game. He brings a great blend of the technical and mental sides of being a goaltender.” The main priority for Bales is to help the mentality part of the game for Fleury.
The Penguins had no issues during the shorten 2013 season scoring the puck. The issue was giving up goals during the Eastern Conference Finals.
Vokoun had proven to be a solid backup during the season and in the playoffs, but Fleury needs to be a consistent goalie this season. The Penguins need to look toward the future and maybe shake it up a bit this season. To prove Hartzell is worthy of a future starting job, he should start a few games this season.
In order to stay as a valuable asset to the Penguins, Fleury must be solid all season and lead the team to a finals victory. If Fleury shows he is not up to the task this season then the Penguins need to make a major decision on rather to keep him or trade him away. It will be interesting to see how the season plays out with how the goalies play this season.