Off to a relatively disappointing .500 start after six games, Pens Nation and the NHL media have channeled their disappointment and frustration in the direction of young Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. There have been rumor pieces popping up all over the web over the last week about how Fleury isn't producing and that the Pens are on the verge of shopping for a new goalie to either push or replace MAF. Friend of TOFTT and AOL Fanhouse scribe Jes Golbez even jumped on the MAF-bashing bandwagon.
Needless to say I had been simmering about this all week and was all prepared to sit down tonight and crank out a post about how MAF is being made a scapegoat for a subpar defensive unit and how Pens fans need to take a deep breath and readjust their expectations for this team. I was all set to come rushing to my guy's defense (unlike anyone wearing a Penguins uniform), and then MAF went ahead and took the first big step towards shutting them all up himself...
After watching from the bench as Danny Sabourin beat Carolina at home in a shootout last night (I thought he looked shaky from what I saw), MAF got the nod tonight in Washington, and he made the most of it. After hearing it all week from the fans and media MAF went out and stole the show against the Caps, stopping 30 of the 31 shots he faced and being named 1st Star of the game while backstopping the Pens to the 2-1 road win.
This was exactly the kind of effort the Pens needed the Flower to put forth tonight. Hopefully this win will go a long way towards MAF getting his confidence and finding a good groove for a while. It has to help that the Pens will start playing more than once a week now (do they really need 4 days between games?) Tonight's performance surely won't silence all of the critics, especially those who have already mistakenly labeled MAF as Pittsburgh's sole weakness, but it sends a strong message to the fans and the team that MAF is a guy who can be counted on to win games for this team when needed. The Pens should score more than 2 goals on most nights, but it is nice to know that when they are held to a brace, that MAF will be there to help bring home the two points. Now bring on the Rangers!