At the end of the 2012 NHL playoffs, the Penguins finished 7th out of 16 in total goals despite playing just six games. They trailed the Washington Capitals's total by three goals despite the fact that Washington played eight more games. No, goals were not the problem for the Pittsburgh Penguins, this time.
Goaltending and defense, on the other hand, were major problems.
The Penguins lacked physical defensemen to play the hook-and-grab style of defense that had overtaken the league through the middle of the regular season. In the same vein, the defense looked lost for most of the series against Philadelphia -and during the season- placing Marc-Andre Fleury on an island.
That is not to say Marc-Andre Fleury gets a free pass from this team's meltdown two months ago. Fleury struggled mightily down the final stretch and when the Penguins needed him the most (Game six), he was horrible, allowing the Flyers to score the "next goal" to forever put the Penguins out of reach.
Fleury's below average performances spanning the last three playoffs have made fans forget about his brilliant performance in the 2009 Stanley Cup run. Even more interesting, all three of those premature playoff runs ended in different ways.
In 2010, the Penguins collapsed at home in Game seven against the Montreal Canadiens. Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled after allowing nine goals on thirteen shots en route to a 5-2 loss. The following season, without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins fell in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. After going up 3-1 in the series, the Penguins dropped three straight, being outscored 13-4 in that span.
Fleury allowed nine of those thirteen goals.
This year was a complete collapse and Ray Shero may have found a player to help remedy one of the Penguins' biggest problems.
Shero traded for Tomas Vokoun last week and then immediately signed him to a two year, $4 million deal. Vokoun, who turns 36 in July, will begin his 16th NHL season with his fifth different team. This time, he will be the backup; something he hasn't experienced since he backed up Mike Dunham in Nashville 12 years ago.
Vokoun is a perfect fit for the Pittsburgh Penguins. His veteran presence will affect Marc-Andre Fleury as it did with Braden Holtby in Washington this past season. While Vokoun's age will limit him from being the 60 game starter he used to be, his talent will still give the Penguins 25-30 starts allowing Fleury to rest during the regular season.
Rest was something Fleury apparently lacked going into the playoffs. Brent Johnson was horrible last season, going 6-7-2 with a .883 save percentage, forcing Bylsma to start Marc-Andre Fleury as the Penguins chased the top seed in the Eastern Conference. With Vokoun backing up, it would be a shock to see Fleury start 67 games like he did in 2011-2012.
If Fleury continues to struggle in the playoffs, Vokoun will give the Penguins at least a fighting chance to win. If the Penguins had Vokoun in April, they probably would've replaced Fleury a lot earlier in the Philadelphia series.
The Penguins still have a few more steps to improve their team, either by making adjustments to their system or upgrading their defensive unit. Nevertheless, Vokoun will still be a vital piece to Pittsburgh's success if they hope to raise the cup in 2013.