As far as I’m concerned the three things the Pittsburgh Penguins should be concerned about going into game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals are getting more bodies to the net through the middle lane, the physicality of Tampa Bay, and preventing cross seam passes in the defensive end.
Apparently, however, the big debate is who the starting goaltender should be.
As far as I’m concerned, this debate isn’t Murray vs. Fleury. Let me explain.
As I statistically proved in my playoff preview article, the Penguins were THE hottest team heading in to the post season. That was accomplished without Malkin, and partly without Fleury. I predicted that Murray would come in and do such an amazing job that it would push Fleury to be his absolute best just to prove he was the guy. My quote was that “this would undoubtedly be the playoffs of Marc-Andre Fleury!”
Well, that didn’t pan out, but the bit about Murray sure did. This team has beaten Lundqvist and defeated the “sure thing” Caps pretty handily. Are you telling me this team doesn’t play for Murray? They’re in tough against Tampa, no doubt. But it’s 2-2 and home ice advantage.
It’s easy to name a bunch of reasons to start Fleury. He’s playoff proven. He’s won the Cup. He was what held them in earlier in the year. Blah blah blah. NHL.com analysts even said he should start because he’s handled being a backup with such grace, and because Murray is mature enough to not be ruined by being taken out. How much do they get paid for that?? Those aren’t even reasons! Who would keep Murray in on account of he’s not mature enough to handle being taken out?? As a coach, there’s no way you care about that.
IF Fleury is to get the start, it’s for one reason only: because you as a coach have a gut feeling or an understanding that Murray isn’t feeling it any more. No other razzle dazzle bullshit. Leave Fleury out of the decision completely.
Murray has shown signs of fatigue. He’s not as quick going post to post anymore which is critical against Tampa’s completely back door pass based scoring. On some of the goals, I as much as anyone am guilty of passing those off as “he had no chance”. But earlier in the playoff he was making more consistent predictions and better reads. Maybe he is slowing down a bit. As my brother said to me moments ago, “Sure he had no chance. You don’t have a chance when you’re not there.”
On the other hand, the Penguins have played one horrific game every series so far(game 2 – round 1, game 5 – round 2). Game 4 could have just been that hideous game for round 3. No one said this would be a sweep. The whole point of making a big change like a goalie switch is because the team needs a big change. I really don’t think we’re at a “big change” moment yet.
I tweeted last night that getting Fleury in for a period down 4-0 was the best thing that could have happened. The worst would have been actually getting to a big change moment, making the switch, and finding out the hard way that Fleury wasn’t ready.
Now, we do know he is. Now, Tampa knows he is. That in my opinion is just as good or even better than actually starting Fleury.