The first serious goalie controversy of the postseason has resolved itself quickly—at least, for now. Matt Murray was first off the ice at today’s team skate, and will start in net for the Penguins in tonight’s desperate Game 4 in Ottawa.
I agree with this decision, and yet it feels savage. Marc-Andre Fleury gave up four goals in 13 minutes to start Game 3, and that apparently outweighed his entire body of playoff work this year, which has been great. His shutout was the only reason the Pens have taken a game off of the Senators, and he stole wins against Washington in a series that proved to have very little room for error. Even with Wednesday’s disaster, Fleury still sports a .924 save percentage—better than Craig Anderson or John Gibson. The difference, obviously, is that the Senators and Ducks don’t have options like Matt Murray. And that’s why we very well may have seen Fleury in a Pittsburgh uniform for the very last time.
Murray was the Penguins’ clear No. 1 goalie throughout the regular season, and for all but a game and a relief appearance in last spring’s championship run. He’s better than Fleury. Can he be better now, after going six weeks without playing, than Fleury has been in the playoffs?
(The wholly unsatisfying answer is that the Penguins’ defense is so bad it may not matter.)