Marc-Andre Fleury has been brilliant so far in these Stanley Cup playoffs, but on Wednesday night in Game 3, Matthew Murray made his first appearance in net since sustaining a lower-body injury. Fleury was pulled after allowing four goals in the first thirteen minutes of Game 3. The Penguins eventually went on to lose by a score of 5-1, with frustration brewing in the locker room after the game. Veteran Matt Cullen believed that the effort was not evident in the loss.
Fleury has posted a record of 9-6 in these playoffs with a goals against average of 2.56 and a save percentage of .924. In last years’ playoffs, Murray had a similar save percentage of .923.
Head coach Mike Sullivan has not named the starter for Game 4, but the Penguins have much bigger issues to worry about.
Lack of scoring
Craig Anderson has looked super human in this series so far, allowing only three goals in the process. The Ottawa Senators’ style of play has caused the Penguins to slow down their game drastically, which is leading to less chances off the rush. The neutral zone has also been clogged, taking away the Pens’ explosive speed.
In order for the Penguins to score more goals, they have to get traffic in front of Anderson and fire away. The Pens made Vezina trophy finalists Sergei Bobrovsky and Braden Holtby look average at best in the first two rounds of these playoffs, but haven’t been able to figure out Anderson.
There have been three goals scored by the Penguins in this series and unlike last year, depth scoring is nonexistent. If the Penguins want to win the Eastern Conference Final, it will have to be on the back of the stars.
The Penguins are currently without two of their top three puck-moving defenders. Kris Letang and Justin Schultz create offense from the blue line, but without them, the Pens’ defensemen look tired and worn out.
The Penguins have shown great character and resilience all season long, but the injuries might finally be starting to catch up to them.
Who starts Game 4
Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray are both proven champions. The Pens have the luxury of having two elite goaltenders and head coach Mike Sullivan has done a great job dealing with the situation. If not for Fleury, the Penguins could have been defeated by the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round 1, and certainly by the Washington Capitals in Round 2.
Fleury deserves to start, but seeing Matt Murray between the pipes on Friday night would not be a surprise. After all, he did win a Stanley Cup just last spring.
Expect the Penguins to bounce back in Game 4, as they have only lost consecutive playoff games under Mike Sullivan twice.