The big question heading into Game 4 between Pittsburgh and Ottawa is which goalie will be in net for the Penguins.
Murray, 22, hadn’t played since April 6 as he recovered from a lower-body injury but he was the Penguins’ No. 1 goalie for most of 2016-17. He made 13 more starts than his 32-year-old teammate in the regular season, posting a better record (32-10-4 compared to 18-10-7), save percentage (.923 compared to .909) and goals-against average (2.41 compared to 3.02).
In the playoffs, however, the Penguins have relied on Fleury and the veteran has stolen several games for them. Following that shaky Game 3 start, his immediate future is a mystery. Another layer to the Penguins’ goalie debate is the fact the upcoming expansion draft means Fleury’s time in Pittsburgh is likely coming to an end since Jim Rutherford will undoubtedly choose to protect Murray.
“I feel bad for Marc-Andre Fleury because I’m a big fan of his,” former NHLer and current NHL hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick told Joey Vendetta on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Thursday. “I don’t think it was his fault [that they lost Game 3] or the four goals that go in. If you see the first two goals it was bad bounces. Nothing Marc-Andre Fleury could really do about those goals going in. I think the third and fourth were lack of battle and bad coverage by the guys in front of him but he’s the one that’s going to be the scapegoat.”
Forward Matt Cullen told reporters after the game he felt the Penguins “hung him out to dry.”
“I think right now with the way the series has changed very quickly—and it kind of seems like it’s making a downward spiral for Pittsburgh—you need to shake something up quickly so you don’t allow this momentum that Ottawa has created to increase,” Roenick said. “Putting in Matt Murray is probably not a bad idea, even though Marc-Andre Fleury deserves another shot. Not sure that that’s the right play to do right now.”
As of Thursday afternoon, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan hadn’t said who would get the start in Game 4.
“One thing that Mike Sullivan is is he is a very smart guy, he’s a very loyal guy and he definitely understands the pace of the team, the tempo of the team inside the locker room,” Roenick added. “Marc-Andre Fleury is a very popular person in that locker room. It would not surprise me if he just chalks that one up to a bad game, bad luck, and says, ‘Marc, you have gotten us this far. I’m giving you one more shot to try to get back into this thing.’"