Why The Penguins Should Have Chosen Fleury To Start Game 5

It’s official. During Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals Matt Murray will be the goalie that you see in Pittsburgh’s net. Although there was speculation after the last two poor Pittsburgh performances about which goalie head coach Mike Sullivan would start tonight, his choice was rather predictable. Sullivan has displayed an obvious preference towards Murray consistently throughout the postseason, and whatever his reasons may be, he is in the wrong tonight. Without Marc-André Fleury the Pittsburgh Penguins would not be in the Stanley Cup Finals, and after the last two inadequate Pittsburgh performances he is just what they needed to light a spark in this frustrated team.

Fleury’s performance during the earlier part of the playoffs was nothing short of astounding. He was fantastic, making excellent saves and acting as the most dependable player on the team. Up until the last game he played, Fleury was a front runner for the Conn Smythe if the Penguins won the cup and was easily one of the best performers for the Penguins in the 2017 postseason. So what happened? He had one bad performance and he was booted.

After a 4-1 loss in Game 5 to the Predators, Mike Sullivan was quick to say they did not lose the game because of goaltending. Well what about the last game that Fleury played in these playoffs, Game 3 against Ottawa where the Penguins lost 5-1? In that game Fleury promptly got removed after four goals and was thereon replaced by Murray. All of the goals in that game were caused more by awful Penguins defensive play than by poor goaltending, and goals like the second goal that bounced off of Ian Cole’s foot displayed that luck was not in Fleury’s favour that night. So he had one bad game, is that enough to end his playoff run? For Sullivan it was, but he has different standards for Matt Murray.

Game 3 the Predators beat the Penguins 5-1, the same score as Game 3 against Ottawa; however, this time there was no goalie change. By no means was the Penguins defence spectacular in these last two games; however, there was some evident weakness in goal. Murray’s glove side has been alarmingly weak; shots taken in that area of the net are pretty much guaranteed goals for the Predators. Should Matt Murray have stayed in net for Game 4? Absolutely. One random poor performance is not enough to remove a goalie from the starting lineup. Murray, however, underperformed in Game 4 as well. The glove side remained a weakness for Murray in Game 4. This time the Penguins lost 4-1, and once again poor defence is the main culprit, yet slight weakness in net also contributed to the loss.

Furthermore it’s not just the losses that are aggravating for the Penguins, it’s the wins too. There has not been a single game during this final series in which the Penguins have outplayed the Predators and that is why a goalie change for tonight’s game would have been crucial to alter the team dynamic. Under Marc-André Fleury the Penguins had some outstanding performances, perhaps some of the best hockey played in the Crosby era of the Penguins franchise. They defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that has been dominating all season, in just five games. They eliminated the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals in Game 7 with a shutout. A switch in the starting goalie could help the Penguins bring back the spark they had earlier in the playoffs and could help them shift their momentum in a positive direction.

Overall, Matt Murray is a fantastic goalie and there is no doubt that he is going to have an incredibly successful career in the league; however, tonight, in this high pressure game where the winner takes a series lead, it would be smarter to go with a goalie that has more experience, more spark, more leadership, and one who has had phenomenal performances throughout this postseason (with the exception of one game).

To recap, Fleury should have been chosen to start tonight because:

 

  1. A goalie change could give the Penguins the momentum shift that they have been waiting for.
  2. Murray’s glove side has been rather weak these past two games.
  3. Fleury’s role as a veteran player and leader could help change the team dynamic in a positive way.

 

Without Fleury the Penguins would not have reached this far, and tonight, without Fleury, we’ll see if they can go any further. 





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