Photo credit: Marianne Helm
FREDERICK, MD – On the eve of a pivotal game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, fans of the eliminated Washington Capitals finally chose their allegiance. ”If Bylsma doesn’t play Marc-Andre Fleury, he’ll be squandering the Pens’ chance at the Cup,” said 24-year-old die-hard Caps fan Steve Neuschwander of Monrovia, MD. “I mean, I know his playoff save percentage has been under 90% for the last few years, but that just means he’s due.”
Neuschwander, wearing a custom-embroidered KOLZILLA Caps jersey and smelling vaguely of stale Keystone, continued, “You put your trust in Flower; he won’t let you down.” Holding one hand to his chest and the other to the sky, Neuschwander proclaimed, “I want the Penguins to win this as much as anyone, and they’re not gonna do it without MAF.”
Fleury has struggled of late, allowing many deemed “soft” goals before being relieved in favor of former Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun in the first round, a point not lost on Caps stat-fanatic Dale Greenblatt. “Trust me, Vokoun is a fraud. I want nothing but the best for the Penguins of Pittsburgh, and the best goes by the initials M, A, and F.” Greenblatt, whose Caps blog Bring Back Bradley features advanced statistical analysis and frequent misspellings of Swedish player names, produced several bubble charts illustrating the superiority of Fleury over Vokoun.
Pittsburgh, who could take a 3-1 series lead with a win on Wednesday night, is expected to keep Tomas Vokoun in net. That, according to a Caps fan who preferred to remain anonymous, would be tantamount to unconditional surrender. “Oui, Vokoun has beaucoup experience and a proven record of supérieure goalkeeping,” said the Caps fan, who chose to go by the name Matt Perot, “but he’s got no heart. The Pens will need heart to close out this series over a team with defense as stiff as a Quebecois toonie.” The anonymous fan continued between nibbles of a croissant, “And when you think heart, when you think cœur, you think Marc-Andre Fleury. When has he ever let anyone down?”
Caps fans are not alone in their advocacy for Fleury, as noted hockey experts Stephen A. Smith and @hockeyyinsiderr also voiced support for the goalie switch.
Head coach Dan Bylsma remained mum as of press time, although the Penguins did eschew pucks at Wednesday’s morning skate in favor of beach balls.