COLUMN: Give Me A Break

I will say it now and won’t back down from my point: The Pittsburgh Penguins play no differently in front of longtime starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury than they do the young phenom Matt Murray.

You all know my stance on Flower and how much I love him. It’s well documented in my writing and throughout my Twitter as well. I’m sorry, but don’t feed into the dog crap about this team playing better in front of one goaltender and not the other.

The Penguins are in a bittersweet situation right now. Fleury is used to handling the majority of the starts. He’s able to keep his rhythm, find his groove, have the same mentality at practice and before games. Neither Fleury or Murray can get in that groove right now. You’re not going to get the best out of Murray until he’s the absolute number one goaltender who gets the majority of the starts. Fleury isn’t going to get any better playing one game out of every four.

It takes a toll psychologically. We all know the psyche problems MAF has had throughout his career and I know that what’s been transpiring with the competition has probably borderline eaten him alive.

Back to the main point, though. Fleury has been the bonadife starter for more than a decade. The Penguins are consummate professionals at the game of hockey. No team is going to purposely play differently because of the goaltender in the net and risk losing the hockey game. It takes a moronic, non-hockey minded person to come up with such a statement.

Go ahead. Make the argument that the Penguins give up more shots when Fleury is in net, which seems to be true but doesn’t necessarily mean they play and different. Check out my stance.

The below graph describes the correlation between shot volume and save percentage. This graph proves the point that even if the Penguins give up 45 shots with Fleury in net and 25-30 with Murray in, the save percentage does not change. Facing a higher volume of shots does not mean you will automatically give up more goals. Fleury has got to make some of these saves. He is the goalie after all.

(This graph is from @GunnerWilson on Twitter)

This point isn’t being formed after a one game rough patch. The numbers speak for themselves. Fleury donned a 6-4-3 record heading into the game. His 3.19 GAA and .907 SV% are atrociously bad. He’s letting in goals lately that just shouldn’t be going in. This isn’t the MAF we’ve come to know and love.

Think about it, Fleury had been playing incredibly well and stretched his record as far as 6-0-0 to begin the season. Then Matt Murray showed up. The competition began and Fleury was no longer the starter.

The same, confident young goaltender that took the NHL by storm and dominantly defeated some of the league’s premier stars on his way to winning 15 Stanley Cup playoff games last season has sharply seized the job from the fragile, broken Flower.

Give Fleury the opportunity to start on a team with no immediate competition again and he’ll begin playing like the Flower that Penguins fan have seen him be and know he can be.

I greatly appreciate having two starting goaltenders on one roster but the team has put their hands in the Matt Murray cookie jar. They signed him to an extension, full-knowing that a decision had to be made on who their goalie would be going forward and that answered it.

I respect your opinion, but facts are facts. This team plays truthfully no different with Fleury in net than they do with Murray. It’s just a preconceived notion that Fleury worshippers have come to believe to heavily. I again am one of the biggest Flower fans but come on, give me a break.

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