The Pittsburgh Penguins might not have a full-blown controversy, but they definitely are at a crossroads with regards to their goaltending situation.
Matt Murray surrendered 4 goals in the first two periods of Game 4 - but review the tape and none could be considered on the keeper. A deflection from in front, a hard east-west pass to an uncovered player cutting backdoor, a wide-open pass back and forth (on the power play), and a centering pass to another unmarked opponent on a weird bounce. That's the goals Murray gave up, which any goalie would probably give up. Important to note he didn't get pulled in this game of anything he could really control.
However, at 4-0, a change needs to be made and it was. Marc-Andre Fleury came in strong, made 7 saves in the 3rd period (including a nice poke-check early) and held Tampa off the board and allowed the Pens to storm almost all the way back.
Now, the question becomes: Murray or Fleury. Let's look at some pros and cons of the debate.
Pro: Has brought them this far
Murray minded the fort while the Pens overwhelmed the New York Rangers, but then he was the (slightly) better of 2 goalies when he went toe-to-toe with expected 2016 Vezina winner Braden Holtby. Murray has done everything you could ask of a goalie, let alone one who is 21 years old and impressing more and more as he gets the chance to play more and more.
Con: Hasn't kept puck out of net in Tampa series
Playoff hockey is the ultimate "what have you done for me lately". Murray is 2-2 with a .896 save % and a 2.75 GAA against the Lightning, despite the fact you only need 2 fingers to count the amount of less-than-ideal goals he's given up. It might not be all on him, but if the team can get more of a spark with the other goalie, that could mean all the difference moving forward.
Pro: Is the franchise goalie
Fleury, to his infinite credit, has been a genuinely great teammate and supporter of Murray while he sat the bench. But Fleury's long been the proverbial horse the Pens hitch their wagon to, starting 60+ games a year traditionally. He's played well in the playoffs (and yeah, he's played poorly in the playoffs), but he's played 99 games in the playoffs. He knows what it takes this time of year.
Is 20 minutes enough to shake off missing 7 weeks of game action? Fleury was tested early, but not often. He isn't as sharp as he would like to be, and probably couldn't be expected to be physically and mentally ready to be an elite goalie. There's a big difference in playing one period, with score effects of the other team on their heels, and coming in fresh for a full game. With as high of a standard as Murray has set, it seems difficult for any goalie to provide more, and easy to provide a little less. With that being the difference in winning most the games (which Murray has done) and losing.
The Case for Murray
Matt Murray has been a great goalie lately. In the NHL he's been solid, in the AHL he was peerlessly great. He's got the size, skill and mental attitude to win playoff games, and he's proven it lately.
To speak to that mental attitude (not counting 1 shootout loss), Murray is 6-0 in the NHL this season in his next start following a loss, including 3-0 in these Stanley Cup playoffs. He's bounced back incredibly well. A hidden stat might be that in 2 of the 3 playoff games, the Pens have only scored 2 goals (without empty net) in support of him in those bounce-back games. Murray has been incredibly resilient and strong to the this point when given the chance to bounce back, and it might be a good idea for the Pens to turn back to their young netminder.
The Case for Fleury
Fleury posted a career high (tied) .921 save % this regular season, and he was very good when he was playing. The team knows him, to a man they love him, and whether you buy or sell that his presence alone helped spur the comeback- there's no debate that Fleury kept the puck out of the net in Game 4, and the Pens took flight.
Fleury is the franchise goalie, he's been the guy for the past decade. He's had to bide his time after regaining full health while Murray played so well, but he's now healthy and he's at least gotten into an NHL playoff game. If he's ever going to be put back in there, now is the optimal time.
It's a fun debate, and in a way there's no wrong answer. Matt Murray is a spectacular young goalie who has played very well this spring and more than done his share to get the Penguins into the Eastern Conference Finals. Marc-Andre Fleury is a bonafide franchise goalie who has a ton of playoff experience, and had his best regular season statistically (other than suffering 2 concussions).
Either goalie could lead the Pens to the promised land. But only one can start Game 5. So, who ya got? Vote and voice your opinions in the comment section.