In game 5, Matt Murray stopped 16 of 19 shots. Although his stat line in this game was not exactly impressive, (.842 save percentage and just above a 3.00 goals against average) you can hardly blame the kid.
The first goal he allowed was an absolute howitzer of a one-timer from Ovechkin. Not much Murray could do on that goal. Ovechkin made a great shot, and the defense needs to start reading that play. It’s almost way too predictable, but its starting to work. Ovi has been taking that shot all series long, and it was only a matter of time before he scored on it, and he will continue to do it until the Penguins shut it down.
The second goal he allowed was on a near identical play. Ovechkin let a one-time shot go, although this time Murray made a great pad save. However, TJ Oshie outworked the Penguins defense in front and knocked in the rebound. Again, Murray could not have done much to prevent that goal from happening.
The third and final goal for the Capitals was one Murray probably could have stopped, however you can’t put all the blame on him. Brian Dumoulin attempted to clear the puck and put it right on the stick of Justin Williams, who could have sat down and enjoyed a nice 3 course meal before shooting the puck while skating in on Murray. The puck went 5-hole, but Williams never even gets this golden chance without the turnover from Dumoulin. In addition, the shot was deflected by a Penguins stick, and did not go where Williams intended. If he gets the shot of clean, Murray just may have made the save.
And yet, many Penguins fans, analysts, and even nhl.com are claiming that Fleury may, and even will, get the nod in game 6 on Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center.
Wait, this isn’t a joke?
Matt Murray should be your starter in game 6. And if the Penguins lose game 6, he should be your starter in game 7, and potentially in round 3 against Tamba Bay. In my opinion, the earliest that the Penguins should even consider using Marc-Andre Fleury is in game 1 of round 3.
So why would I not play Marc-Andre Fleury in game 6? There are plenty of reasons to support my argument, which is the right decision, involving keeping Matt Murray in net.
In the words of Rob Rossi, the Penguins have 2 options in net for game 6: “a rookie, or a Cup winner.” Ok, that’s fair. Here, I would say the Cup winner…but only if I’m basing a decision solely off of that statement.
Let’s rephrase this scenario to make it more accurate.
The Penguins have 2 options in net for game 6: a 21-year-old goaltender with promising potential that has a .937 save percentage and a 1.96 goals against average in the playoffs, or a 31-year-old goaltender who hasn’t played a game in a month, and is coming off of his 2nd concussion of the year.
Hmmm…I’ll take the 21-year-old guy.
Crazy how a little rephrasing can totally change the scenario.
So what, we should all be calling for Matt Murray’s head since he let in 3 goals on 19 shots? Well, Holtby let in 3 goals on 23 shots in game 3, and I do not recall many people calling for his head following that loss.
Heck, if Fleury was healthy, played in every game thus far, and had Matt Murray’s stats up to this point…are we calling for Matt Murray after Fleury lets in 3 goals on 19 shots, in which he couldn’t really do anything about each goal? I would say no, but that’s just my opinion. However, when the “franchise guy” Fleury is on the bench, it seems as though yinzer nation just wants an excuse to put him in. I get it, but it’s ridiculous.
Ride the hot hand. The Penguins guy is still Matt Murray. Oh, and I’m not done yet.
Let’s start thinking hypothetically (although I do not always enjoy thinking hypothetically, it makes sense for this situation). Say the Penguins start Fleury in game 6.
If he wins, then great. The Penguins will move on and the coaching staff will decide which goalie starts game 1 of the next series against the Lightning.
If he loses, notably if he plays subpar or even just lousy, then what? Do you, yet again, turn to the Cup winner/franchise goaltender to try to muster up a game 7 win in Washington? Or do you go back to Murray, who is the main reason the Penguins are at where they are to begin with.
Now the Capitals go into game 7 with confidence and momentum, and the Penguins coaching staff is scratching their heads as to which goalie they want to play in game 7. The risks are just not worth it. Not to mention that starting Fleury over Murray in game 6 would be taking a huge shot at Murray’s confidence, considering he didn’t really do much wrong in game 5, or in the playoff in general, to warrant being taken out of the lineup.
Let me draw you an almost identical parallel.
It was 2004. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost Tommy Maddox to injury in game 2 of the regular season, which was a loss to the Ravens 30-13. He was replaced by rookie Ben Roethlisberger, who everyone figured would be a half-decent quarterback, but nothing fantastic. He ended up leading the Steelers to 15 straight wins, 14 in the regular season, and a 15-1 record.
Now tell me this: say Maddox was ready for game 12, and despite the Steelers winning game 11, in addition to games 1-10, Roethlisberger had 3 interceptions, but none of which were really on him. Do you put Maddox back in?
No. And it’s not even close.
My final argument is that Matt Murray deserves to finish was he started. As a referred to in my previous article, the Penguins would never have owned a 3-1 series lead if not for Murray. He is the reason the Penguins are in the position they are in, and he deserves to finish the job.
Heck, even if Murray and the Pens finish the Caps off in game 6, many will be calling for Fleury to start game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in round 3. To this, I still say the starter should be Matt Murray.
Well, let’s look at the stats. The Penguins are 0-3 against the Lightning this year. In the first game, the Lightning won 5-4 in OT. Fleury posted a .800 save percentage. In the second game, Fleury had a horrid .714 save percentage, allowed 4 goals, and was pulled in favor of Zatkoff, who started the 3rd and final game against the Lightning. Murray has yet to face the Lightning, but I like to think he can’t be much worse, especially with how he has been playing this year.
Game 6, I’ll take Matt Murray.
Game 7, if needed, I’ll take Matt Murray.
If the Penguins advance to play Tampa Bay, I’ll take Matt Murray.
If they advance to the Stanley Cup, well, it’s hard to not go with Matt Murray.
I love Fleury, and regardless of what happens in the playoffs this year, he will be the starter for the Penguins next year. However, for now, the Penguins need to keep riding Matt Murray. Case closed.