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Q: Even though the Pens and Devils are old Patrick Division rivals, I have to admit that I was happy to see Martin Brodeur finally surpass Terry Sawchuk's record (for career shutouts), even if I hated to see it happen against the Penguins. My question is, would it have been classless to pull our goaltender at the end of the game to try to deny Brodeur the honor? If the game is out of reach, which it was, and the Pens are pressing for a goal, which they were, wouldn't it make sense to go with the extra skater?
Daniel Curry, Johnstown
MOLINARI: That's a really interesting issue, and obviously does not have a black-and-white answer.
Clearly, with New Jersey up by four goals in what became a 4-0 victory at Mellon Arena Monday night, the Penguins weren't likely to score four times in the waning minutes of play, and the chances of them doing so without allowing an empty-net goal would have been less than microscopic. From a reality-based perspective, since the idea of replacing a goaltender with an extra attacker generally is to try to generate the goal(s) needed to extend a game past the third period, sending out a forward to take goalie Brent Johnson's spot would have been an exercise in futility.
Conversely, it's understandable that no team would want to be the one to end up on the wrong side of history, and clubs are perfectly within their rights to remove the goalie and send out an extra skater at any point in any game. Games last 60 minutes, and there not only is a right, but an obligation, to compete for all of those. If Penguins coach Dan Bylsma thought there was a point to putting a sixth attacker on the ice -- even if it was only to give his players some real-life practice in such a situation, especially against an opponent highly motivated to prevent them from getting a goal -- he absolutely was entitled to do so.
The thinking here, though, is that Bylsma handled the situation correctly by keeping Johnson in the net. The players he sent out pushed hard for a goal until the final seconds of play -- remember, Sidney Crosby hit a goalpost with under two minutes to play, and Brodeur had to stop a close-range shot by Evgeni Malkin during the final minute -- and if they'd gotten one, that would have been a small moral victory in an otherwise discouraging defeat.
That late push was not going to get the Penguins a point or two, however, and that's the only objective that really matters. Pulling the goalie, if done for no reason other than to sabotage Brodeur's attempt to set the record that evening, could have come across to many as petty.
And by the way, what was left of the Mellon Arena crowd came off looking awfully good for the ovation it gave Brodeur at the end of the game. Whether they enjoyed the outcome or not, those fans witnessed the setting of a remarkable record by a guy generally regarded as one of the great goaltenders in NHL history. For them to put aside the disappointment they felt over the Penguins' loss and pay tribute to Brodeur's accomplishment was commendable.
Comporting oneself with class and dignity, as those fans did, never is a bad way to go.
Q: What happened to the original Stanley Cup banners hanging at the arena?
Aaron Wik, Bellevue
MOLINARI: The Penguins have those in storage and, according to a team executive, plan to auction them off to benefit charity at some point. Details of that auction have not been set.