Murray or Fleury?

matt-murray-marc-andre-fleury-900x506In 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.

Ha. Ha.

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.

Why?

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.

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Murray or Fleury?

“C” Stands For “Crosby”, right?

Geno

Similar to my last article, let me take you back to 2009.  The year the Penguins won their 3rd Stanley Cup.

Who won the Art Ross Trophy, given to the player with the most points after the NHL regular season?

Who won the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs?

If you guessed Evgeni Malkin, you are correct.

After the 2008-2009 regular season, the Penguins had 2 players with more than 100 points: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.  After that, no one else on the Penguins was close.  The third highest scorer on the Penguins that year, Jordan Staal, ended the regular season with 49 points.

It really shows you how important it is for the Penguins get production from their star players.  It is just how they are built.

Anyways, Evgeni Malkin finished the 2008-2009 regular season with 113 points, and Crosby with 103.

In the playoffs, Malkin recorded 36 points in 24 games, including 14 goals and 22 assists.  Crosby was right behind him with 31 points in 24 games, with 15 goals and 16 assists.

Although Sidney Crosby was right behind Malkin in both the regular season and post season in terms of points (heck, Crosby had one more goal than Malkin in the playoffs), who do you remember most from that Stanley Cup winning team?

I sure do remember Talbot with the all famous “shhhh” to the Philadelphia crowd, which was a huge turning point for the Pens in the playoffs.  The Penguins were down 3-0 at this point in the game, and came back to win.

I remember Marc-Andre Fleury robbing Alex Ovechkin on a wide open breakaway in game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, which turned into a 6-2 Penguins victory.

And who can forget the save that Marc-Andre Fleury made in game 7 on Nick Lidstrom, that ultimately won them the Stanley Cup?!

All of that being said, when I think about that Stanley Cup winning team, I think of Evgeni Malkin.

He was dominant.  He was hungry.  He put the team on his back during almost the entire season.  It is tough to describe, but you just had that feeling that he was in control of the Penguins.  He was in the driver’s seat.

Not Crosby.

Crosby was good, and he was an important piece to the puzzle, but Crosby just never stood out to me during that season.

When I think of 2008-2009, I think of Evgeni Malkin.  These are all 3 of his goals against the Hurricanes in game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.  If you don’t want to watch them all, skip to 2:03 and please watch from there.

His hat trick goal will forever be one of my favorite goals I have ever witnessed in my life.  It might be my favorite to be honest with you.  I can remember watching this game, seeing Malkin score that goal, and….

Well, listen to the announcer.  It says it all: “OH MY WORD!!”

Now, let’s move into the present.

The Penguins just defeated the Minnesota Wild, a great hockey team, 4-3 at Consol Energy Center Tuesday night.  The score was close, but the Penguins did play a great hockey game.

I want to note that I am absolutely not sold just by this one game.  It was great to see the Penguins bounce back, but as I noted in my last article, it’s about this whole season being a bounce back from every season since 2009.  This season needs to be a response.  Great game by the Pens, but I need more to be convinced.

Anyways, let’s get back to this game.

I mentioned in my last article how I feel as though Malkin is the true leader of this hockey team, not Crosby, despite Sid wearing the “C” on his jersey.

Tonight just further proved my point.

I mentioned in my previous article that Malkin was the one that called the team out.  HE was the one to stand up and confront the media.  Everyone on that room was clearly disappointed, but HE was the most vocal about it.

Malkin talked the talk, and tonight, he walked the walk.  Or should I say, he skated the skate. (ignore my terrible humor)

He figured into every Penguins goal, notching 2 goals and 2 assists, including a highlight reel goal that proved to be the game winner.

Oh, so what did Sidney Crosby do?

Nothing.  At least not on the stat sheet.

This team responded, and it responded well.  But it was not Sidney Crosby that responded.  It was not his words, nor his actions.

It was Malkin’s.

Last season, the Penguins were on a 0-2-1 skid, scoring only 3 goals in these contests.  Malkin stood up: “We know we can come back. I believe this team has good guys and good players. We need to support each other, relax, and we’ll be back.”

The Penguins won both of their next 2 back to back games, and Malkin registered 2 goals, 2 assists, for 4 points during these games.  Crosby chipped in 3 assists.

So, what am I getting at here?

Malkin is the true leader of the Penguins team.  Please, tell me one time, EVEN ONCE, where Sidney Crosby called out this team, and they responded because of it.  Give me ONE TIME where he had as much impact on this Penguins team as Malkin, and I’ll take back what I said.

Crosby is a great hockey player, and I absolutely do not want to take that away from him, but he just isn’t the true leader of this Penguins team.  He leads by example (at times, certainly not this year).

I hope Crosby comes around, and I’m sure he will.  But being a leader is not just about what you do on the ice, or on the court, or on the field.  It’s about what happens off the ice, and from what I can tell, it sure seems like Malkin is more of an overall leader of this Penguins team than Crosby.

I sure hope that “C” on Crosby’s sweater stands for “Crosby,” because if it stands for “captain,” it should most certainly be worn by Evgeni Malkin.

 

“C” Stands For “Crosby”, right?