The Pittsburgh Penguins have a problem many hockey teams would like to have. They have two very talented goalies on their roster. While this may be a good problem to have, the Penguins, like the St. Louis Blues last year, need to make a decision on where they are going. Coach Mike Sullivan has already begun to make that decision.
The last seven games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, have started their younger goaltender, Matt Murray. It has been 21 days since Marc-Andre Fleury has seen live action. With the next few games being on the road, on the west coast, Fleury should be getting some starts here shortly but why isn’t he starting now?
The easiest answer is: Fleury will likely not be a Pittsburgh Penguin next season. His contract cost, plus the up and coming Murray is playing well, the business move is to trade Fleury for a position the Pens may need more than an extra goalie. Also in the mix of goalies is the young Tristian Jarry who is projected to be better than Murray.
To complicate things further, it has been rumored that Sullivan is trying to get Murray’s confidence up, after a few rough starts and to top it all off an injury that sidelined him until the Pens bye week.
Other rumors floating around on Fleury is that the Penguins and Blues are in a trade for Fleury for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. It has been said that the Blues do not want to resign him and with Jake Allen and Carter Hutton struggling in goal for the Blues this trade would make sense. After the Blues lost Brian Elliott to the Calgary Flames, their goaltending is a big reason why the fourth all-time winningest coach, Ken Hitchcock, was fired.
To the average Pens fan, it’s all about Matt Murray. He is after all, a big reason the Penguins won the Stanley Cup. However, to the seasoned veteran hockey fan, it’s a scary situation. Murray has room for much improvement and Fleury is a two-time Cup winner. Without Fleury, there may have been no playoffs for Pittsburgh last season and consequently no Cup either.
Murray, while a serviceable goaltender, has shown he still has a lot to learn in net. Murray was a big unknown in the playoffs last season and it’s a big part of why he was successful. Murray is showing that he needs a good defense in front of him to block shots. He’s good at going for the first move from a shooter and going down to the ice rather than wait patiently for the shooter to reveal their movement. These are all teachable things, however, the window for a lot of the veterans on the team is closing and this is the best chance for the Penguins to repeat a Cup.
Fleury is a veteran and while he also has weaknesses, his tend to change each game like any other veteran goaltender currently in the league.
Interesting to note, when the season first started and Fleury and Murry took turns playing in net, Sullivan had Fleury playing against tougher, better teams like the Minnesota Wild. Whereas Murray would get the start against teams that weren’t so good.
Now is the time, before the March 1 trade deadline, for the Penguins to figure out what they are going to do with Fleury. As soon and emotional as it is for fans, it’s a business and it’s unfair to have a good goaltender riding the bench rusting away.
The way the body language of the Penguins and how they’ve been starting their netminders, this is probably goodbye to Marc-Andre Fleury in a Penguins uniform.