Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari
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Q: Could you tell Marc-Andre Fleury that at least one fan hasn't lost faith in him? I don't care if he lets up 30 rebounds and 10 goals a game. I figure the more rebounds he lets up now, the more practice the defense gets at swiping away the few rebounds he'll be giving up in the 2012 Stanley Cup final.
John, Farmington, Conn.
MOLINARI: Fleury undoubtedly appreciates that some fans haven't lost faith in him; he's probably even more grateful that management hasn't. Coach Michel Therrien underscored that point when he gave Fleury the start in what became a 5-0 victory against Atlanta last Saturday, two days after he pulled Fleury from a game in Ottawa after he allowed two goals on four shots.
But no matter what his bosses do to show support for him, you can assume Fleury realizes that guys are counted on to produce at this level -- even when they're getting on-the-job training and trying to live up to the enormous expectations so many scouts and other talent-evaluators have for a goalie with Fleury's athleticism and work habits.
Making mistakes -- and figuring out how to avoid them in the future -- is part of the learning process, but it's not as if goalies have a quota of rebounds and/or soft goals that they have to give up over the course of an NHL career, and that Fleury is just getting a lot of them out of the way during the first two months of the 2007-08 season.
The Penguins have been -- and will continue to be -- patient with Fleury, because he has the potential to develop into a franchise-caliber goaltender. Management will know long before 2012, though, whether it believes Fleury is the guy who can take the team to a Cup final.
Q: With a quarter of the NHL season over, do you think it's possible all of the predictions that Pittsburgh will be a serious Cup contender were based on an erroneous assessment of their overall talent level?
Rich McKee, Venice, Fla.
MOLINARI: Not having put forth such a prediction, it's difficult for the moderator of this forum to say precisely what made so many observers around North America to conclude that the Penguins -- who have won a grand total of one playoff game since their run to the Eastern Conference final in 2001 -- were ready to win a championship next spring.
Fact is, very few, if any, of those predictions came out of Western Pennsylvania, presumably because reporters and other people based here had a better feel for the Penguins' shortcomings and soft spots heading into this season.
There's no question they have many of the components needed to regularly contend for Cups in the relatively near future -- having a young foundation that includes Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, among others, is an extraordinary luxury -- but the Penguins, as currently constituted, are not a major threat to win one in 2008. Their individual talent would make them a legitimate threat to win almost any best-of-seven series, but not four of them.
First Published November 27, 2007 12:00 am