Red Wings Notebook: Conklin takes a stand behind both goaltenders
June 8, 2009 4:00 AM
Chris Osgood makes a stop on Evgeni Malkin in Game 4. Osgood is 3-0 at home in this series and 0-2 on the road.
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
DETROIT -- The Stanley Cup final has been a perfect example of the way goaltenders are lightning rods for criticism.
When Detroit won the first two games at Joe Louis Arena, each by 3-1 scores, the ability of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on a big stage was questioned. When the Penguins came back to beat the Red Wings in Games 3 and 4 at Mellon Arena, each by 4-2 counts, the vitriol shifted to Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood.
It's probably safe to say Fleury is back on the hot seat after he was pulled in the second period of Game 5 after allowing all the goals in the game, a 5-0 Penguins loss.
"You can't play goal in this league if you've got thin skin. Having thick skin is a prerequisite for the job. That's just the way it is," said Ty Conklin, who has shared a locker room with Osgood and Fleury. "We all understand that -- and I think most of us embrace it."
Conklin, 33, was Fleury's backup in 2007-08 and did well filling in while Fleury was out with an ankle injury, going 18-8-5 for the season. He then signed a free-agent contract with Detroit last summer.
When Osgood struggled early this season, Conklin again came to the rescue. He was 25-11-2 with the Red Wings in the regular season. There was heat on Osgood, who is a win away from his third Stanley Cup ring.
"Playing in Detroit, I think we see it more than in most places. Detroit can be tough on goalies," Conklin said. "There are certain cities where the blame and the credit for a season a lot of times lies at the goalie's feet. I think we all understand that's the way it is.
"I can tell you [Osgood], for what he's done and what he's accomplished and the way he's played throughout the years, to sometimes not get the credit ... if I were in his position, I certainly would not take it as well as he does and I consider myself someone who lets things roll off my shoulders pretty easily. He's the master at it. The guy couldn't care less what other people think. He's confident in the way he plays, and he's confident in his ability."
Fleury, Conklin said, also has a knack for getting through the tough times. That's something that could serve him well after Game 5.
"Flower's a happy-go-lucky kid," Conklin said, using Fleury's nickname. "I only played with him for a few months, but he's one of the top goalies in the league. I was always really impressed with how he went about his business, how he handles good games and bad games -- and, frankly, there weren't many bad games when I was there."
Before Game 5, Fleury thought back to his time recovering from his injury and studying Conklin, who is a good stick-handler.
"He's a guy that helped me a lot, just from watching him," Fleury said. "I was out for a while and I got to see how he was handling the puck. He is somebody I look up to in that department."
The Red Wings were given the day off with the option of staying home, but some came to Joe Louis Arena.
One was NHL MVP finalist Pavel Datsyuk, whose return in Game 5 after missing seven games because of a foot injury helped spark the lopsided victory.
"Feeling good and more confident," Datsyuk said a day after he had two assists.
During the day Saturday, Detroit coach Mike Babcock fretted over what tie to wear in Game 5. He had bought one for that night, but he also felt the tug of what has been called his lucky tie from McGill University, his alma mater in Montreal -- although as far as anyone can tell, the last time he wore it was the Red Wings' triple-overtime loss to the Penguins in Game 5 of the final last year.
With several fellow alums, including former teammates, at the game, Babcock went with the red McGill tie.
"I don't know if it was lucky before [Saturday night], but we won," he said. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity. It's good to have friends here supporting us."
The tie is not something he plans on wearing often, or even necessarily again in this series.