November 2, 2010

If Brent Johnson keeps winning, it's not a controversy

Brent Johnson: 5-0-1
Marc-Andre Fleury: 1-5-0

It's November 2nd. No need to freak out.

That's the benefit of Johnson's success so far this season. He's kept the Pittsburgh Penguins afloat as Fleury goes through a tough opening stretch. If Johnson was mediocre while Fleury struggled, the New Jersey Devils' fanbase would have company on the bridge.

What Johnson has done is give Fleury time to work through his issues. In six starts, Johnson has yet to give up more than two goals, while Fleury has yet to give less than three in his six starts.

The topic of Fleury has been raging among Penguins fans for years, even with a Stanley Cup ring and game-saving stop in the dying seconds of Game 7 in 2009. It seems to be a never-ending debate unless he seemingly wins 50 games a season and doesn't have multi-game losing streaks during the course of a year. And with all of the debate around Fleury, who would his detractors want to replace him (reasonably) in the Penguins net with? Tough to come up with some names.

This situation is sorta kinda like what happened in 2008 when Fleury went down with a high-ankle sprain and Ty Conklin took over. With the former No. 1 overall pick out for six weeks, Conklin took the reigns, put up MVP-type numbers and helped guide the team to an Atlantic Division title. Fleury would pick things up and bring the Pens to the Cup Final against Detroit.

While Fleury isn't hurt this time around, it's another credit to Ray Shero and the moves he's made as Pens' GM. Johnson has been primarily a backup for almost a decade in the NHL and in his past three seasons (including '10-11) with Pittsburgh and Washington, he's has posted a 27-12-4 record. The record shows that when given the opportunity to let the team's No. 1 get a breather or take a night off to rebound, he gets the job done.

In Pittsburgh right now, it's the same situation, except if he keeps doing what he's doing, his opportunity will be much more than a game or two at a time.

Photo credit Associated Press via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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