Pay No Mind to the Netminder

“Fleury or Murray?”

That question has been uttered probably more times than any other this season and it’s rearing its head again after Marc-Andre Fleury let in four goals in the first period of Wednesday’s game three in Ottawa.

Those goals weren’t all on Marc-Andre Fleury.

And the Penguins would be at home watching a Washington v. Ottawa series without him.

Even including last night’s debacle, Fleury has posted a .924 SV% and a 2.56 GAA.

Those stat lines hardly do his play justice, however.

He’s came up big in all the right moments.

He’s given them a chance in just about every game, besides last night.

To have lost any faith in Fleury after what happened last night is just naive.

On the other hand, Matt Murray came in and played exceptional in relief.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Matt Murray is a good–no, great goalie.

He’s going to be the franchise goalie for a long time and certainly for the rest of the Crosby/Malkin era.

Would it feel kind of harsh for Sullivan to bench Fleury after he’s carried them all this way?

Sure.

Could starting Murray potentially give the team a change and something to rally around?

Maybe.

The simple fact is, none of us are in that room.

None of us know that team and how they’ll respond. We’re just simply guessing.

If you want my guess, I think Fleury starts game four.

But Mike Sullivan gets paid a lot of money and for good reason.

Every fan should have full confidence in this guy by now.

He’s an incredible tactician, a great teacher, but above all else he is one hell of a motivator.

He knows how to read his team and he will absolutely make the decision that he feels will get the most out of his players and in turn, lead to the optimal result.

Whoever the Penguins put in between the pipes on Friday, will give them a chance to win.

Too much is being made of the goalie situation and too little is being made of the real dilemma with this team.

Their defense just can’t help generate any offense, whatsoever.

If Ron Hainsey is leading your defense in ice time, you’ve got more problems than who is manning the crease.

With everyone healthy, this is a non-issue.

Kris Letang on the top pair, Justin Schultz on the second. That’s a hell of a 1-2 punch.

The Penguins would look like the ones we watched raise the Cup last season, and maybe even better if they had all of these weapons at their disposal.

Losing Letang was huge, and quite honestly it is unbelievable that the Penguins have made it to the Eastern Conference Final without him.

Not to mention, they got there through the two toughest teams in the East.

Now, after two hellacious series and plenty of wear and tear, Justin Schultz is out too.

That just might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Schultz is not a Letang replacement, only about three other guys in the league can do what Letang does for their respective team.

But he’s a damn good player and he was the Penguins best puck-moving blueliner by a mile.

The Penguins defense looks like this:

Hainsey-Dumoulin

Maatta-Daley

Cole-Ruhwedel/Streit

Mark Streit was the Penguins best defenseman last game and that was his playoff debut in black and gold.

Streit should undoubtedly play over Hainsey at this point.

Hainsey is great on the PK, but he’s terrible just about any other time.

simple use of advanced stats incoming, so here is an easy way to look at it

Corsi  = shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots

Corsi For = # of times this happens for player’s team while on ice

Corsi Against = # of times this happens against player’s team while on ice

The Ronster posted a CF of 12 and a CA of 28.

That means his Corsi rating for the night was -16.

His CF% was 30% (team low).

Think of a CF% of 50% as having no impact.

Anything worse is a negative impact, anything better is a positive impact.

This is a very simple way to digest advanced stats, but I won’t delve any deeper than that because that’s simply not what my blog is about, nor am I educated enough to speak at length about those topics.

Mark Streit

CF: 24

CA: 5

Corsi Rating: 19

CF%: 82.76% (team high)

Those are considered elite numbers by the advanced stat community.

Is Mark Streit the cure all to the Penguins woes on the blue line?

Probably not.

Is he a hell of a lot better than Ron Hainsey in an elevated role?

Absolutely.

The point I’m trying to drive home here is that the problem is not in net.

The problem is not with the forwards.

The problem is on the blue line.

The problem exists solely because of injuries.

You’ll never hear the Penguins say that, ever. They don’t make excuses.

They have every reason to say it.

I doubt there’s any team that comes close to man games lost this playoffs, this regular season, hell, probably anytime in the last five years.

The Penguins injured blue line is why they are struggling to generate offense, and it really is just that simple.

This isn’t a Ron Hainsey smear campaign either, if he’s in a sheltered third pairing role, where he’s used as a PK specialist, he is fine.

Expecting him to perform well in top pairing minutes is just ludicrous.

Jacques Martin should break up the Hainsey-Dumoulin pairing immediately for best results.

The problem with having your two best defenseman go out with injury is that every guy has to step up into roles that they are not accustomed to and probably aren’t equipped for.

There’s still plenty of hope for this Penguins team though.

They found a way to beat a much better Washington Capitals team by devising different tactics to help the blueline generate offense and get the puck to the skilled forwards.

To think that Mike Sullivan and co. won’t be able to do that again is pessimistic.

They bounced back after a game six shellacking against Washington, where the defense was basically nonexistent, with the best game they’ve played all playoffs in a winner take all game seven.

I hate to say it, but game four in Ottawa is about as close to a must-win as you can get.

I also happen to believe that the Penguins are going to show up with some new ways to generate offense from their defenseman and attack the Senators 1-3-1 trap.

I think the Penguins put on a performance similar to the on they did in game seven.

I think the series heads back to Pittsburgh tied at 2.

I think the Penguins turn this series around.

No more mental lapses.

No more scrums.

Just play.

 

 

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