It is the oldest move in the book, when a team loses a game the easiest thing to do is blame the goalie. Now, in some cases that may be true; however, in 90% of cases it is far from the truth. Sadly, with the whole Matt Murray vs. Marc-Andre Fleury debate still going fans are now more eager to just blatantly throw blame on either goalie. To illustrate my point, I will analyze two games which Murray and Fleury were blamed, and prove why it was in no way their fault for the loss.
First up, we will look at the Penguin’s most recent game versus the Detroit Red Wings. The Penguins lost 5-2 and Murray let in four goals on twenty shots. Most fans immediately jumped to place the blame onto Murray based on the fact that he only faced twenty shots, which is not an educated statement. Let’s look at how all four goals went in. The first goal was a breakaway by Nick Jensen. The whole play started with a turnover in the offensive zone, then continued with Chris Kunitz falling over at center ice, then a poor transition by Trevor Daley, and lastly a very nice move from Jensen to give the Wings a 1-0 lead. This goal can now be clearly seen as not Murray’s fault. The second goal was scored by Steve Ott. He made a clean hit on Kris Letang, and shortly after cut right across the slot and scored a backhander that trickled through Murray. Now here, the goal is Murray’s fault because it went through is body. Any goal that goes under or through a goalie is his fault. Next, the third goal was scored by Tomas Tatar on a 3-1. This play started by a horrendous giveaway by Jake Guentzel in the defensive zone to create the 3-1. The goal was scored from the off-center slot via a one timer. Yet again this goal was in no way Murray’s fault, because the goalie’s job is to cover the shot not the pass. The fault clearly falls onto Guentzel here. The fourth goal was scored shortly after by Thomas Vanek. The slot is statistically the easiest place to score from in hockey, and Daley and Letang let Vanek walk right into the slot and score. This was a 1-2 and Daley should have stepped up to cut Vanek off, instead of letting him shoot from the best place on the ice. Lastly, the blame for this game should also be placed on the Penguin’s offense for going 0-4 on power plays, Tom Kuhnhackl missing a breakaway, and missing two open net chances.
Next up is Fleury’s game against the Capitals on January 11th. The Penguins lost 4-2 ad Fleury faced 29 shots. This game, much like the Red Wings game, was just an overall headache to watch. Arguably one of the best pure goal scorers ever, Alexander Ovechkin, scored his 1,000th point about a minute into the game. Kris Letang, let Ovechkin push his gap back as he entered the zone, and ultimately was allowed to walk right into the slot for a clear shot. It is absurd to expect Fleury to stop the best goal scorer in the NHL right now from dead center slot. The second goal was scored by… you guessed it, Ovechkin as well. Ovechkin notched his 1,001th career point from the dot on the power play like he has done countless times in his career. For a goalie to have to slide across his crease and stop a 95 mph slap shot that went high glove side is again almost impossible to ask for. The third goal was scored by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov walked around the top of the circles, wheeled behind the net, stopped abruptly, and passed to Justin Williams on the short side who beat Fleury low. This is the only goal that is Fleury’s fault. He stayed with Kuznetsov behind the net, but was scored on in tight while being down in the reverse VH position. The key reason he is to blame for this is because he was beat short side, and in the reverse VH position the short side should be completely covered. The last goal was scored by TJ Oshie on a short 2-2 break. As the 2-2 developed, Oshie streaked right past Letang who made did not keep track of him, and the rest is history as Oshie had the whole top of the net open. Another point for blame in this game falls on Phil Kessel for missing a breakaway and the Penguins for only scoring two goals.
All in all, Penguin’s fans need to take a step back before jumping to place the blame. Often times, the blame can and should be placed on someone other than the goalies.