Q: What is it with the fans' criticism of Mark-Andre Fleury? All he seems to do is win in the playoffs. With the sweep of the Hurricanes, his playoff record is 27-15. How does his playoff winning percentage of .643 compare with some of the more respected goalies in the NHL?
Bob, South Hills
MOLINARI: The conventional wisdom is that football is the most popular sport in this part of the country. If so, Fleury-bashing seems to be a close second. That might stop if and/or when he wins a Stanley Cup someday, but probably not. There undoubtedly would be a segment of the Penguins' fan base that would rip him because he didn't raise the Cup in a manner they find satisfactory.
Those folks have been pretty quiet lately -- come to think of it, the Q&A hasn't received many of those Why-hasn't-Ray-Shero-been-fired? or Why-is-Rob-Scuderi-in-the-NHL? submissions lately, either -- but you can rest assured that will change the first time Fleury gives up anything resembling a suspect goal to the Red Wings, or doesn't play a puck flawlessly behind his net. Perhaps he'll get a grudging pass from the critics if he ever attains perfection, but don't bet on it.
Below is a sampling of the playoff records of some of the league's most highly regarded goaltenders, although their numbers should be viewed with the understanding that there's only so much a goalie can do on his own. If his team is completely overmatched by a particular opponent, his record figures to suffer, no matter how well he plays.
Martin Brodeur (98-78), Roberto Luongo (11-11), Cam Ward (23-18), Tim Thomas (10-8), Henrik Lundqvist (14-16), Miikka Kiprusoff (25-28) and Evgeni Nabokov (32-31). Detroit's Chris Osgood, by the way, is not generally regarded as one of the league's elite goalies, but he is 71-45. Consider that some of the best evidence of the impact a goalie's teammates can have on his record.
Q: After passing up a shot at an empty net and giving it up to Craig Adams (at the end of Game 4 in the Eastern Conference final), can we say that Sidney Crosby is not only a world-class talent, but a world-class teammate?
Dave Lapic, Washington, D.C.
MOLINARI: Frankly, if Crosby would have opted to shoot at the empty net instead of setting up Adams, it would have been a bigger shock that his subsequent decision to spend some time hanging out with the Prince of Wales trophy. Given the circumstances -- the Penguins had a comfortable two-goal lead and Crosby had a chance to gift-wrap a thank-you to a teammate who fills a valuable blue-collar role and just happened to be facing his former team -- it's hard to imagine that anyone in the building believed Crosby was a serious threat to shoot.
If Crosby has a problem with selfishness, it's that he isn't selfish enough, often enough. When he puts the puck on goal -- even though he isn't usually a scoring threat from much more than about 15 feet -- it makes him more dangerous because it reminds opponents that they shouldn't assume he'll be looking exclusively to get it to a teammate.
Also, don't forget that Crosby is a captain. It's a given that those guys are supposed to put the team's interest, and those of their teammates, ahead of their own, and Crosby takes that "C" stitched on the front of his sweater very seriously.
With all of that said, Crosby didn't do anything that the vast majority of the guys in this league wouldn't have done in that situation. If it's possible to set up a teammate for an empty-netter without the risk of having the scoring opportunity be squandered, that's what most players will do.
Q: What are the rules for having a coach's name engraved on the Stanley Cup? Since Michel Therrien coached for over half the season, will he have his name inscribed on the Cup if the Penguins win it?
MOLINARI: No, he wouldn't. The criterion for coaches is pretty straightforward: Be the guy coaching the team when it wins the championship, and you get your name on the trophy. Otherwise, you don't. Just as players who were traded don't, regardless of the contribution they made to the Cup-winning team's success.