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Greg Thornberry The Hockey Writers

Published on Saturday, April 23, 2016





Pittsburgh Penguins: What Happens When Fleury Returns?

Pittsburgh Penguins’ goalie Matt Murray is living up to the hype as the heir-apparent to Marc-Andre Fleury. But nobody could have predicted his stellar play against the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

It is this stellar play that is going to cause some drama, primarily among Penguins’ fans, when Fleury returns from his concussion.

In the above Twitter poll, I proposed three options. Let’s take a deeper look at these choices, and their ramifications. Please understand that I feel that the Penguins will be fine with either Fleury, or Murray in goal. The point of this is to highlight the dilemma that the team may face,  and to play devils advocate for each possible choice.

It’s Murray’s Job Now

Murray helped the Penguins down the stretch to clinch second place in the Eastern Conference, and has only allowed one goal in two amazing performances in the playoffs. A strong case could be made for Murray keeping the job. Right how he and his teammates appear to be on the same page, and the Rangers are stymied by him. He is on a roll right now that you may not want to mess with.

But remember way back in 1996, there was a young goalie named Jim Carey. He took the league by storm and was considered to be one of the next great netminders. That is until he met the Penguins in the playoffs. After winning 35 games in the regular season, Carey was tortured by Pittsburgh, and his career never recovered.

Calm down, I am sure that Murray has a long and successful career ahead of him. The point is that with a young goalie, no matter how good they look, you never know what can happen.

It’s Automatically Fleury’s Job When He Returns

Fleury is the Penguins all-time winningest goalie. He has won a Stanley Cup, and carried his team for much of this season. In the end, the team is going to need Fleury for the grind of the playoffs. There are situations and pressures that Murray will not be prepared for, while Fleury has faced it all. As well as the Penguins have played in front of Murray, there are years of familiarity built up between Fleury and much of the roster. He could easily, and likely will fall seamlessly back into the starting role.

That being said, the NHL playoffs are an unforgiving time of the year. If Fleury does come back with even a little bit of rust, it will be exploited. During the regular season, he could come back and would have gotten a pass if he had a bad game or two. That just isn’t possible in the postseason.

Just Go With The Hot Hand

This is the final, and possibly the most realistic option. Right now Murray is nearly unbeatable, and his team is playing like a machine. Even if Fleury comes back, the Penguins should just ride the wave of success until the team, or Murray start to falter.

The Penguins are lucky to have two goalies (or three, depending on your perspective) that are capable of starting, and being successful in the playoffs. There is no reason to force a situation one way or the other. Just play the cards that you are dealt, and hope for the best.

So I pose the question to you. Should the Penguins continue with the hot-handed 21-year-old Matt Murray, or turn to the former Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury when he returns from injury? I look forward to your opinions.

Until next time.


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