I understand how deep the attachment gets to players like Marc-Andre Fleury. When a player is the most accomplished goaltender in the franchise’s history, and an even more accomplished person off the ice, it’s hard not to become a big time fan of that player, even after their tenure with your team is over.
Here’s a harsh reminder for everyone: remember when people wanted to run him out of Pittsburgh in 2012? The Penguins just played in probably the worst series of the Crosby/Malkin era, and Fleury was abysmal. As a matter of fact, it took a stretch of a few seasons, including one where he was benched in favor of Tomas Vokoun, that made people want to dump Fleury.
Now, I’m not saying everyone who cried along with me the night Fleury made his return to PPG Paints Arena is guilty of this, but I’m positive there’s a sizable portion of Penguins’ fans who were singing a different tune during those painful years of losing in the first and second rounds of the playoffs.
But winning cures everything in sports. The Penguins winning back to back Stanley Cups, especially with Fleury playing a key role in both Cup runs, makes people forget about how he was almost the goalie that never lived up to the hype of a number one overall pick.
Here’s the thing: Fleury is gone. The Penguins were able to have a fantastic situation at goaltender for two seasons that was no doubt a big component of their back to back Cups. It’s over now. You can love Fleury. You can still cheer for him. You can even cheer for Vegas, but if you’re a Penguins fan, the Matt Murray hate has got to stop.
All Murray has done is his career so far is win. He’s not even played three full seasons and he has two Stanley Cups, one of which he was a legitimate candidate for the Conn Smythe. He very well may end up getting a third Cup this season. If the Penguins are to do so, Murray will be a big reason why.
Pittsburgh doesn’t have the roster depth as Tampa Bay or Nashville. They will need their players to be at their highest levels in order to win. The Penguins aren’t the best team right now, but what they do have is players who know how to win in the playoffs.
Matt Murray is one of them. The guy is 10-1 after a loss in the playoffs in his career. He’s the fastest players to get to 25 career playoff wins. To add to that, he’s started off this playoff run in fantastic fashion with great performances against Philadelphia and a stellar game one against Washington.
Is Murray the same guy as Fleury? No, and you know what? That’s okay. The Penguins don’t need Matt Murray to be the next Marc-Andre Fleury. They need him to be himself, but Murray himself is well accomplished beyond his years, and a third Cup this year would solidify himself and one the game’s most clutch goaltenders.
Great goaltenders don’t have to put up great numbers. Fleury’s career numbers don’t stack up against several of the other goaltenders of his generation, but most would consider Flower to be one of the best. Arguably, Fleury’s greatest moment as a Penguins was his Cup-clinching save against Detroit in game seven in 2009.
Great goaltenders make the saves when they count. Matt Murray has done that time and time again. Who cares if he didn’t put up the regular season numbers? Regular season accolades mean very little to these players when you consider what they’re playing for: a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. Is Sidney Crosby still the best in the world? Just about every Penguins fan would say “yes” to that, even though his regular season numbers were short of even Claude Giroux, and I don’t need to convince you that Giroux is no where near Crosby’s level.
Take all the numbers and throw them out the window. Matt Murray is here to stay and we are dang lucky to have him as the Penguins’ franchise goaltender. So, the next time he allows a goal glove side, remember that not even the precious Marc-Andre Fleury was always in our good graces.
Murray deserves our support as fans of this franchise. So stop with the hate, and actually get behind this great goaltender.