After leading the AHL with a regular season goals against average of 1.93, nobody expected Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin netminder Jeff Zatkoff to allow 12 goals in four periods in the first two games against the Providence Bruins.
Such an occurence would seem to break a goaltender’s confidence, especially after a four-goal outburst in the first period of Game 2 led to an early exit.
So is Zatkoff rattled heading into tonight’s Game 3?
“It’s a four-period span that didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, but it doesn’t deter what I’ve done all year,” Zatkoff said after Tuesday’s practice at Coal Street. “I have confidence in myself and that’s the way the game goes sometimes.”
Although head coach John Hynes said Tuesday he hasn’t made a decision on who will start in net tonight, he made it clear there are no confidence issues with Zatkoff. In fact, Hynes said the 12 goals aren’t entirely his goaltender’s fault.
“It’s a situation where you give up that many goals, it’s not your goaltending. It’s your play around your goaltending,” Hynes said.
While there are plenty of areas to direct blame as the Penguins head into Game 3 in an 0-2 deficit, the Bruins deserve a little credit as well. The fact that they were able to score 12 times on one of the top goaltenders in the league — and against a Penguins team that allowed the fewest regular season goals — is no small feat.
The Bruins have been led by Chris Bourque, Jamie Tardiff and Ryan Spooner, who have combined for eight goals and 16 points in the first two games.
“Maybe they caught us a little off guard, but their forwards are really skilled,” Zatkoff said. “When we gave them some time and space, you saw the plays they were able to make. Good players are going to make those plays. Credit to them.”
During the three-game sweep of Binghamton in the opening round, Zatkoff allowed only four goals on 73 shots in two starts before sitting out Game 3 with an illness. Brad Thiessen stepped in and allowed two goals in a Game 3 win and has kept Providence off the board during the two periods he came in for Zatkoff in Game 2.
While Hynes hasn’t determined who will get the start for Game 3, Thiessen said he is preparing for either scenario.
“You always try to prepare like you’re playing,” he said. “Anything can happen, so you go through your same routines and get yourself ready either way.”
And that includes putting the past behind and focusing on the game ahead.
“You’re either the hero or the goat sometimes,” Penguins goaltending coach Mike Bales said. “You look at the two games (for Zatkoff), and it boils down to really three periods that didn’t go his way. That happens.
“Jeff led the AHL in goals against and he knows what he can do. Three periods of hockey do not define who he is.”
- D Dylan Reese skated at the end of practice wearing a red no-contact jersey. Hynes said he won’t play tonight and is considered day-to-day.
- The last time the Penguins were down 0-2 in a playoff series was in 2011 against the Norfolk Admirals. The Penguins won the next four games to advance. Thiessen said the team played desperate, and they need to do the same thing now.
“I remember, from the drop of the puck in Game 3, a real sense that we needed to play for our lives,” he said. “Back then we were down 0-2 and heading on the road. We’re in a bit of a hole now again, but the series isn’t over.”
- Hynes said there isn’t any more pressure being down 0-2 in a series than there is being in command.
“It’s funny because when you’re down, everyone says there’s pressure. But when you’re up, there’s pressure to because you have momentum. You don’t feel any more comfortable going into Game 3 in the Binghamton series up 2-0 because you want to put the nail in the coffin,” he said. “When you’re down, sometimes you look at it negatively but it’s just the situation we’re in.”